Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate story is brought to life in this Syfy channel miniseries. When young Jim Hawkins (Toby Regbo; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1) happens across a treasure map, he and his guardian Dr. Livesey (Daniel Mays; Doctor Who) hire a ship and a crew to find the infamous lost treasure of Captain Flint (Donald Sutherland; The Hunger Games). Among the crew are Captain Smollett (Philip Glenister; Life on Mars (UK)), Squire Trelawney (Rupert Penry-Jones; Red Tails) who finances the voyage, and of course Ron Silver (Eddie Izzard; The Riches).
Aside from its length really dragging down the viewing experience of this, it’s an excellent adaptation of Stevenson’s novel. Broken into two 90 minute chunks, the series could have been effectively pulled off as a 2 hour, made for TV movie. The two episodes have a difficult job finding an equilibrium between drama and action. Section one is all drama, all story, and tends to drag on for long boring periods. Section two is all action, with the crew inevitably fighting over the map and the buried treasure it represents.
Despite the miniseries’ dramaturgical shortcomings, it is very good overall. The way it’s shot, directed, and acted all feel like a big-budget Hollywood production, and it is a lot of fun. The performances in particular are all fantastic. Eddie Izzard continues to establish himself as a brilliant dramatic actor by adding Treasure Island to his résumé. Izzard has stated on several occasions that while he likes touring as a stand-up comedian, he has always wanted his acting career to lean towards the more serious. His hunger for drama, as well as his natural charisma made him a perfect choice to portray the two-faced Ron Silver here.
Newcomer Toby Regbo does an admirable job of carrying this entire production on his shoulders. At the center of the plot, Regbo achieves an impressive range of emotion as his loyalties are pulled in every conceivable direction, and it’s easy to see his potential as an actor. Hopefully, it will be utilized.
One small, yet significant role is Ben Gunn (Elijah Wood; Wilfred), who used to run with Silver and Flint as a pirate but has been living on this deserted island for years presumably. Gunn has clearly been driven mad by his time in isolation, but maintains some aspects of his former personality, bridging the gap between savage and civility.
Philip Glenister and Donald Sutherland round out the excellent cast and really make Treasure Island a treat to watch. It may be too long to enjoy with multiple viewings, but if you have the time to get into it, the series will reward you with gold.
Special features on the DVD include commentary by director Steve Barron and Eddie Izzard, behind the scenes featurettes, and cast interviews.
Available on DVD from Sonar Entertainment on July 24