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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Literature > TV Mini-Series > Action > Swords > Neverland (2011/Vivendi DVD) + The Three Musketeers (2011/Summit Blu-ray3D/Blu-ray)

Neverland (2011/Vivendi DVD) + The Three Musketeers (2011/Summit Blu-ray3D/Blu-ray)

 

3D Picture: x/B     2D Picture: C+/B     Sound: C+/B     Extras: C/B-     Main Programs: C/C+

 

 

Some classic books have been made and remade to death, but when anyone takes them on, they also take on what did work in previous adaptations.  Here are two recent examples that were ambitious, but ran into their share of problems.

 

 

The first book is Peter Pan, which we have seen far too many extrapolations and adaptations of lately, though the last big budget version (Steven Spielberg’s Hook) became a mix hit and is now a cult item.  Nick Willing’s Neverland (2011) is an ambitious attempt top do something a little different with the material and having directed interesting music videos for the likes of Eurythmics and Swing Out Sister, plus much fantasy TV, seems to want to pick up where Spielberg’s Hook left off in spirit, down to casting Bob Hoskins, but in a different role.

 

This TV mini-series in two parts has Peter (Charlie Rowe) come from the real world while Tinkerbell (voiced by Keira Knightly) and company are trying to stop evil in two worlds: theirs and mortal Britain.  Not as silly as most of the variant versions since Hook, fine performances by Rhys Ifans, Charles Dance, Anna Friel, Q’orianka Kilcher, et al is not bad, but all cannot overcome the been-there, done that feel and even if this is your first acted version of the book, it is not going to be much better.

 

Fans of the book and actors will want to check it out, but most should not get their hopes high that they’ll like this one.  Still, it was not as bad as it could have been.  Extras include three featurettes, an all access section and audio commentary by Willing, who also wrote the teleplay.

 

 

Not as adapted, but also often so has been The Three Musketeers with some recent versions (Peter Hyams’ The Musketeer (2001) tried to add new action elements, while the Disney/Stephen Herek 1993 version with Chris O’Donnell was Hollywood’s last big version and it did not quiet work) so now we have action director Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers (2011) which has a big budget and after 10 years of adaptations, is the first in 3D.

 

As one of our writers has rightly observed, Anderson knows his way around genres and does everything he can to make this work, including applying his experience with new digital 3D technology.  This means they cannot cheat on the swordplay and to his credit, uses as many real sets and location shots as he can.  Still, the very nature of 3D tends to have a phoniness to it few narrative films can overcome and even Anderson this those limits as he is especially inspired by the Richard Lester films (reviewed elsewhere on this site) of the books that were so popular in the 1970s with Michael York.

 

The cast is a plus including Milla Jovovich going into action mode as Milady, newcomer Logan Lerman pulling off D’Artagnan, Matthew Macfadyen solid as Athos, Luke Evans as Aramis, Ray Stevenson (finding another good role) as Porthos, plus nice turns by Til Schweiger, Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz and Juno Temple That make this as formidable a version as I have seen and that includes the hilarious John Wayne 1930s movie serial.

 

Despite all that, this still comes up short by overplaying its hand in what is realistic and what was technology of the time, despite all the research.  Even if you buy the various weaponry, the climax is mixed and the overall result is a mix of successes and failures.  I wanted this to work and though it did not totally do so, I thought this had a much larger audience that would enjoy it for what it was versus Summit, who barely promoted it upon release.

 

Besides coasting on Twilight films, it is obvious the company was bored with itself and that proved to be the case when they let Lionsgate buy them out.  Anderson and company were serious about this production, even if they were not serious about much of anything they did save make money coldly without regard to the quality of their product.  Miss Jovovich publicly (and rightly) criticized the company for their huge lack of support and the rep at the time had one of the lamest responses in recent memory that showed the company’s overall boredom with the industry.

 

I hope this version of The Three Musketeers finds an audience this time and maybe with all the origins issues out of the way, an interesting sequel/continuation could be made by a more confident Lionsgate.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to reassemble the cast if that happens.  Extras include an Access section with more info on the film, Deleted Scenes with filmmaker commentary including several minutes that should have stayed in the film (even if it meant some humor being cut for time) and a fine feature-length audio commentary by Anderson and co-producers Robert Kulzer and Jeremy Bolt, who has been with Anderson since he made Shopping (1994, reviewed elsewhere on this site) in 1994.

 

 

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 on Neverland is shot in HD and is a bit soft here, but some of that is the “soft fantasy world” look and otherwise is just the limits of the HD.  Color is good, but limited.  There is also a Blu-ray, which might look a bit better, so get that version if you have a player.

 

The 2.35 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on the Three Musketeers Blu-ray 3D and 1080p 2D digital High Definition image transfer on the separate Blu-ray 2D discs are about even.  The 3D is not great, but has its moments and covers up some of the detail flaws and issues the 2D version has, though both have color issues and despite so much fine location shooting, the digital work holds back some of the naturalism of the locales and this is an all HD video shoot using several types of HD cameras including 3D units.

 

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Neverland has some surrounds, but the soundfield is inconsistent and dialogue is too much towards the center channel and front speakers, but maybe it sounds better on its Blu-ray edition.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Three Musketeers may have some center-channel dialogue, but also has a nice soundfield, some good sound design and even offers traveling dialogue.  I wished it were even more dynamic, but it is impressive as Anderson’s films usually are for sound for the most part.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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