PictureOn DVD, Finding Neverland arrived with an uninspiring transfer, and I am afraid the same is true on HD. I did see this film at the cinema originally, and cannot remember any notable deficiencies. However, despite the 1080P / MPEG 2 transfer, I could unfortunately see plenty here.
The transfer lacks the depth and clarity that we are used to seeing from our HD releases. There is some grain in the transfer, but never enough to take over the image. Flesh tones seem to lack vitality - and the kind of facial detail we are used to seeing is missing here. This is a shame in a character driven piece such as this.
To be fair, apart from the grain issue, the print is clean but the colours just seem somehow muted. There also seems to be a slightly blue hue to some of the night scenes and shadows.
The print is never as bad as some of the worse transfers I have seen since working for this site, but other discs have proved that it is possible to produce better transfers from films older than this. I wonder if this has been sourced from the same material used to produce the DVD version. Whatever the situation, whereas this is far from a disaster, it is not amongst the best that HD can offer.
SoundThe sound is the complete opposite of the picture. I wasn't aware of a particularly dynamic sound track from my cinema viewing of this, but this Blu-ray delivers a immersive and natural sounding sound track.
Again, like other recent Disney releases, this jettisons an English DTS track in favour of a PCM track. I reviewed the DD 5.1 track which sounded superb.
The key to this track is subtlety. The LFE gets very little use, but other than this all five of the other speakers get extensive use. The score sounds beautiful and well mixed, and the voices are clear and well anchored
Even though this is a dialogue rich film, the surrounds still get plenty of use. During the fantasy scenes they are used well, steering playful sounds accurately throughout the sound field. Even in the real life scenes, the rears get good use, whether it is the clinking of cutlery during dinner party scenes, or the ambient sounds of a full theatre.
This track illustrates that a well thought out and implemented 5.1 track is integral to an experience and can highlight any type of film, not just the big blockbusters.
ExtrasThere is plenty included on this disc, but with the richness of the source material surely there should be more? First off is an audio commentary from the director, writer and producer. Forster, in particular, offers some interesting insights into Barrie, and the more controversial aspects of the story. He also explains why he decided to tell the tale as he did, which makes this an essential companion to the film in my opinion.
Then we are presented with an 18 minute documentary The Magic of “Finding Neverland”. This may only scratch the surface due to its short length - but what is here is fascinating and all the major players take part.
The package is fleshed out with a very funny outtakes reel (one of the best I have seen) and three deleted scenes presented with and without commentary. Depp in particular comes off well out of these, clowning around quite frequently. It's fascinating watching him go from the reserved straight Barrie into helpless giggles and then back again. The final extras are two very short and inconsequential documentaries. One, lasting three minutes is titled Creating Neverland and the other is gushing praise from all concerned in a featurette called On the Red Carpet
One can't help feeling that more could have been done here. There must, surely, have been the opportunity to delve more into the life of J M Barrie and also the influence of the play “Peter Pan”. There is very little here, and that is disappointing.
VerdictFinding Neverland spent three years in limbo between completion and release, but it was definitely worth the wait. A moving and emotional film, it plays with the conventions of reality and fantasy in a very clever way, and manages to move the viewer without ever appearing manipulative. Although it never claims to be the true and in depth account of J M Barrie's life, some of the liberties taken with true events mean that the film is in many ways a lie. However, if you accept this - as a film it does a very good job indeed.
The film is served with a middling transfer, an excellent sound mix, and a disappointing extras package. A recommended purchase for the film alone, which is certainly worth seeing. But the disc cannot come that highly recommended. If you have not seen the film, and want the best version available then Blu-ray is the way to go. But this can only be described as something of a missed opportunity.
Readers should please note that the box art shown above is the American version. Whilst the British version is broadly similar, there are slight differences. The box art will be updated as soon as we get a high res version to upload.
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