Sunday, November 23, 2003

DVD Update

My (probably doomed) attempt not to fall as far behind on my DVD-watching as on my book-reading continues... This weekend, I've been watching Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman's surrealistic little tale of a strange, magical version of London which co-exists invisibly with the mundane version inhabited by most people.

I have to say, it took me a little while to get into this, despite having quite enjoyed the book version. Or, perhaps in part, because I enjoyed the book version. Many of the characters were sufficiently different on the screen to how I imagined them in my head to take me aback slightly. (Which is a little odd, really, since the book was written after the miniseries, doubtless with the TV actors actually in mind.) It was also hampered, rather unfortunately, by low production values. Or, no, one particular "low production value," really, since the sets and costumes and everything looked just fine. The problem is that the whole thing was shot on videotape. And, worse still, according to Gaiman, it was supposed to have undergone some processing afterward to make it look more like film, so they lit it for film. And then whatever it was that was supposed to be done to it never got done. The result is that the visuals, which desperately need to make us believe that these strange places are real, instead feel very flat and fake. A damned shame, really. Still, by about episode two or three, I was so used to the video quality that I scarcely even noticed it any more. And the on-screen portrayals of the characters had become so firmly entrenched in my head that it'd become difficult to imagine any other possibilities for most of them at all. At which point I was able to just settle down and really start enjoying the thing.

Neverwhere does feature some truly great characters. I'm particularly enamored of the Marquis de Carabas. And the guy playing him has the coolest smile, absolutely perfect for the character. Then there's misters Croup and Vandemar, the two most entertainingly disturbing characters you're ever likely to meet. Their respective actors handle them quite beautifully, too. It would have been very easy to ruin those particular characters with overacting, but they manage to achieve exactly the right balance of comedy and creepiness.

So, it's good stuff, overall, even if it did take me a little while to come to that conclusion. I'm glad I decided to pick it up. I am a little disappointed by the relative lack of extras on the discs, though. There's a very good interview will Gaiman, but aside from the commentary track, that's about it. As for the commentary itself, well, I've only listened to the first couple of episodes of that, but I haven't found it terribly exciting. Neil Gaiman is a fascinating guy, and I always find it interesting to hear what he has to say about his work. But he's apparently watching the show for the first time in years as he's recording the commentary, and he seems to find it a bit difficult thinking of things to say about a lot of it. Ah, well. It's not like I bought it for the commentary track, anyway, right?

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