Swallows and Amazons Blu-ray Review
Arther Ransome's classic tale, previously adapted into a film some 45 years ago, receives a nostalgic, wholesome remake for a new generation of kids to enjoy.Harking back to the days of more traditional young adult drama, Swallows and Amazons is a warm adaptation of the beloved classic, appealing predominantly to quite a niche market (probably 5-10 year olds; any younger and it's not Pixar enough; any older and it's not Young Adult enough) but there's nothing wrong with that. It offers clean 'family' entertainment - the kind of adventure the Famous Five embarked upon back in the day - a tale of siblings going off on an adventure to discover and conquer an island in the Lakes, only to find a couple of girls have already claimed it for their own and aren't going to give it up without a fight.The background strand, involving a British spy being hunted by his Russian counterparts, obviously offers up more mature scenes of intrigue and tension, and ultimately a few diverting scenes of peril, but the tribal war to take the island is arguably the more interesting arc. The child cast do well, ably supported by a few familiar adult faces - from Timothy's son, Rafe Spall, to Sherlock villain Andrew Scott and Boardwalk Empire mainstay Kelly McDonald. Whilst it's sure to upset a few fans of the original book, and the 70s adaptation, the necessary changes to update the tale don't betray its classic feel and well-meaning sentiments.
Picture QualityStudiocanal deliver up an impressive enough 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the production's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, which stays true to the classic lines of the period setting, but still stands up alongside modern productions.
The presentation stays true to the classic period setting but stands up alongside modern productions
There is a fine line between TV feel, and classic production, and sure enough this treads all over the line, but that's arguably more of a testament to the quality of TV productions these days rather than an overt slight against this, with fine detail preserved throughout, crisply picking up the Lake District locales (which definitely benefit from the thoroughly cinematic aspect ratio), and absorbing the close-ups of the predominantly child cast that drive the piece. The colour scheme maintains the classic feel although, to be fair, the UK weather undoubtedly helps this, with the skies only intermittently blue, but the lush green landscapes as gorgeous as you'd expect. Black levels are strong, with only a hint of crush drifting in and no other significant digital defects, and, overall, it is a very good presentation - perhaps not one to demo your material with, but then again this was never going to be a title for that.
Sound QualityAlthough defaulting to a solid 2.0 Linear PCM track, most will prefer the superior DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 alternative, which serves up the key elements of dialogue, effects and, arguably most prominently here, score, with aplomb.
The superior DTS-HD MA 5.1 track serves up the key elements with aplomb
Dialogue remains prioritised across the front and centre channels, clear and coherent beyond the rest of the proceedings. Effects pick up the lapping water on the Lakes, the creaking boats, the engine of the seaplane, trains whistling and chugging along, and the atmospherics of the woodland environment. The score sweeps things along at a merry pace, heightening the 'action' sequences, which are quite muted until perhaps the final act, and overall it's a decent aural accompaniment which, again, is not going to be regarded as demo material, but stands up well nonetheless.
ExtrasThe extra features are all a little short, with the 2 minute overview Featurette, Bringing A Classic Tale To Life, 7 minutes of Deleted Scenes, a minute-long showcase of the imaginative Clappers used, 4 minutes of Sailing with the Crew, and a trio of Interviews with the lead cast members totalling 21 minutes and making for the only vaguely substantial extra.
Blu-ray VerdictSwallows and Amazons is a warm adaptation of a beloved classic novel
Studiocanal's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release affords the BBC production decent video and audio, and a smattering of extra features to boot. Fans of the original are both the prime targets and those most likely to be frustrated by the changes made for this update, but those in the right age-range will lap up this younger adult adventure.
You can buy Swallows and Amazons on Blu-ray here
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