Yo ho thar mateys, there be yet anudder adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. This one be mini-series length. It be helped that the novel arrr in the public domain. This one sports a “as appeared on SyFy” sticker on the front which usually be the kiss of death, but it turns out to be more shipshape than SyFy Mega-Long John Silver vs. Jim Hawkins-asaurus.
The recent widow Meg Hawkins (Shirley Henderson) and her son Jim (Toby Regbo) have inherited the floundering Admiral Benbow Inn. Things seem lost until they run aside of Billy Bones (David Harewood) who takes up residence in the Inn and injects some money into it. Their tenant is more than a hassle since he drinks heavily and turns out to be involved in piracy.
His shipmates Black Dog (Sean Gilder) and Blind Pew (Keith Allen) come looking for Bones since he is rumored to have the map to Captain Flint’s (Donald Sutherland) treasure filled island. He does but it ends up in the hands of Jim, the meek Dr. Livesey (Daniel Mays), and the imperial Squire Trelawney (Rupert Penry-Jones). They hire the ship Hispaniola and Captain Smollett (Philip Glenister) to take them to the fabled isle of riches. However, their one-legged cook Long John Silver (Eddie Izzard) has plans of his own and it’s not what to serve for dinner.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in 1883 and it has since become a touchstone for adventure, pirates, and a young lad coming of age. It has been mined for film adaptation ever since pictures moved.
My favorite take on the material starred Charlton Heston as Silver and a young Christian Bale as Jim. This new version aired on the SyFy channel as a miniseries. You would think that appearing on that channel might have changed things to put them in space or the like (that would be Treasure Planet). However, this new version sticks somewhat closer to the book than that. Well, a little.
Since we basically have a three hour running time they’ve had to add much to pad out that running time. We get flashbacks to Captain Flint, Silver’s wife, and even more to do for Hawkins’ mom. The cast is an international one and there are probably more ethnicities represented than have ever appeared in filmed Treasure Islands.
The main roles pretty much are filled with Brits, but we do get Elijah Wood popping in as Benn Gunn. He and many of the others seemed to be channeling Jack Sparrow. They do make the pirates seem likes a tribal band, which I found interesting. What didn’t do much for me were some fast zoom camera moves and the story padding. Eddie Izzard may strike some as and odd choice for Silver, but he acquits himself nicely. No Chuck Heston, but nicely done.
Regbo is also good as Hawkins. Everyone acquits themselves nicely in their roles, but they’ve also made some changes to the characters so they may not be as they appeared in other versions or even the book. If you hold Stevenson’s book in biblical adoration you may hate the show, but it can at least sparkle if you let it.
Treasure Island is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Special features include a commentary by director Steve Barron and Izzard, the 4 minute making of, 10 minutes of cast interviews, a 2 minute tour of the Hispaniola, a 1 minute look at a stunt, and the 2 minute trailer.
Treasure Island the miniseries rises above some of the other dreck that has borne the “as seen on SyFy” moniker. Izzard may be lacking a leg and sporting some odd facial tattoos, but he actually is shipshape. There are some odd choices in filming and padding of story, but I never got too seasick.
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