Last night saw the first of Sky One’s two-part swashbuckling sea voyage “Treasure Island” air on New Year’s Day television. Adapted from the much-loved novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson this latest telling of the classic tale boasts a very impressive cast that includes Eddie Izzard, Philip Glenister, Geoff Bell, Donald Sutherland, Elijah Wood and many more.
The classic story follows a young man by the name of Jim Hawkins (Toby Regbo) who finds himself in possession of a treasure map that belonged to the crooked and despicable pirate Captain Flint (Sutherland). Flint had amassed a hoard of treasure, double crossed his crew and murdered anyone who tried to stop him as he buried his treasure on an island in the West Indies. When Hawkins comes into possession of the map he enlists the help of Dr Livesey (Daniel Mays) who turns to Squire Trelawney (Rupert Penry-Jones) in order to borrow enough money to hire a boat and a crew to find the treasure and enrich their lives. However, Trelawney has plans of his own and has decided that he shall claim the treasure himself with the help of Captain Smollett (Glenister) at the helm. What none of them were counting on was that Long John Silver (Izzard) had been planning his own assault on the treasure and has cleverly managed to convince Trelawney to crew the ship with his men as they plan to reclaim the treasure that Captain Flint double crossed them for.
As the ship sets sails for the West Indies murder, treachery and backstabbing become the order of the voyage as everyone has their eyes set on treasure. As Silver manoeuvres and manipulates all aboard the ship in order to get his hands on the treasure map trouble brews, unbeknown to Squire Trelawney and Captain Smollett. Jim finds himself stuck in between right and wrong with the lines defining both of them rather blurred. As he becomes drawn into the murky world of piracy on the high seas Jim tries to figure out a way he himself can get the treasure home to his Mother. Who will do whatever it takes in order to claim the treasure for themselves?
Treasure Island is a decent piece of family entertainment and as expected the high calibre cast all put in outstanding performances. However, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that the script could’ve been better. The 90 minute long episode took quite a while to get going and it wasn’t until there was only minutes left that things began to really get interesting. Everything up until then had been whispers, talk of mutiny and the threat of violence. The Sky One website boasts of high-octane action adventure, but none of those were on display last night.
Until last night I had no real knowledge of what Treasure Island was about, the story or any of the characters beyond recognising the name Long John Silver. Therefore, I came into the story with entirely fresh eyes and nothing to compare it with in terms of its previous outings or the original text. My point of view comes purely from a storytelling perspective and last night I was left disappointed by a show that promised so much.
To add to the lack of action it was also visually dull. The advantage TV has over a book is that it can use imagery to create a visual feast that enthrals an audience and draws them into a world created by the story. Firing canons, pirates, stunning views and intelligent camera trickery can create pace, drama and action that keeps you engrossed no matter what your level of reading. When coupled with great characters enhanced with great performances it cannot fail. Pirates of the Caribbean was pretty good at doing this and enjoyed the spoils of box office success as a result.
Treasure Island has not been anywhere near as interesting to watch. Instead I spent most of my time trying to remember in what films and TV shows I had previously seen each member of the elaborate cast. I also spent a fair amount of time wondered how much Donald Sutherland and Elijah Wood got paid per second of screen time since sneezing at the right time could’ve seen the audience miss Wood’s performance and the average time spent urinating could’ve seen Sutherland go by the by also.
I was looking forward to Treasure Island. I was excited for Treasure Island. I’m not sure if I’m going to watch part two of Treasure Island.