An enchanting new take on the beloved novel by Arthur Ransome, 'Swallows and Amazons' tells the story of the Walker children, whose summer holiday in the Lake District sees them sailing out on their own to a local island, only to find themselves in a competition with a rival group of children who call themselves the Amazons and ultimately an adventure far bigger than they could have imagined.
An Unwelcome Disappointment
- Swallows and Amazons review by SW
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You rated this film: 2
I have to admit the following; I grew up reading the Swallows and Amazons adventures by Arthur Ransome, and having re-read them recently (long story) I was looking forward to the film. The Seventies film of the same name was a disappointment; wooden and stilted, but it did remain mostly faithful to the book given the restrictions of time etc.
This offering started with the book obviously, and then apparently began to remove any possible spoken areas of offence that could have been caused by the age of the material and its (now) unenlightened prose. This was inevitable and I paid it no real heed. However, a further editorial process took place that forced upon the story an anachronistic and rather preachy series of messages regarding 'safety'.
This was demonstrated repeatedly but especially by a contrived near drowning of Roger that never took place in the book, because Roger wasn't stupid to the point of imbecility in the book. The 'stranger danger' in the form of a frankly ridiculous scene with the charcoal burners left my wife and I aghast; their meeting is delightful in the book and leeringly threatening here. This coupled with the dreadful personalities of most of the Swallows and half of the Amazons that to me was simply inexplicable as they displayed nothing of the kind in the book.
The spirit of the book, teamwork, adventure and enjoyment of simple pleasures and imagination was replaced by sulky teens being destructive, incompetent, argumentative liars. The Swallows were bad enough, but the worst for my Wife and I was undoubtedly Nancy Blackett, the leader of the Amazon Pirates. How one of the most positive portrayals of a cheerful, capable, strong and independent young girl in print anywhere could be allowed to have been reduced to this spoilt nonentity is beyond me. I shall take the nightmare vision of a petulant, sulky Nancy to my grave. As her character was wont to say in the book, "Barbecued Billygoats!" And to think that Ransome was accused of being a sexist Edwardian misogynist; the irony is almost painful.
This was supposed to be a children's film about children experiencing the joy and excitement of exploring and simply being children, a 'war' between Explorers and Pirates being the central narrative. Adults had a secondary part in the book, not here; SPIES for heaven's sake were most of the story. Watch this by all means and then read the book if you wish, but under no circumstances reverse the procedure.
What shame and a Travesty A missed opportunity.
- Swallows and Amazons review by BH
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You rated this film: 1
I was looking forward to settling down to watch the new “Swallows and Amazon” film in great expectation but, sadly, it was a great disappointment. Why, oh why did they feel the need to update and change the story? “The Arthur Ransome book “Swallows and Amazon” is a much-loved classic, a complete and cohesive story that doesn’t need embellishment or updating. It is a period piece and all the better for that; updating it to a ‘cold war’ setting was unnecessary and destroyed much of the charm of the original and just got in the way of the real story.
The film does pay some ‘lip service’ to the original book, such as the references to ‘grog’ and ‘pemmican’ but being dropped in, out of context they became an inane distraction. The island setting was a good representation of the book’s Wild Cat Island but there were some glaring errors. The ‘hidden harbour’ should have been a small, hidden, rocky inlet surrounded by trees, not just a few rocks stuck upright on a straight bit of shoreline. The significance of the harbour was blurred over and lost in the up-dated plot.
The cast worked manfully at their parts but the ‘miscasting’ of the two younger Walker children, played by actors a year or two too young, made a mockery of some key aspects of the (original) story. I still don’t understand why they changed the name of ‘Titty’ Walker to ‘Tatty;’ it added nothing and detracted from the character’s believability.
Swallows and Amazons is a wonderful story that didn’t need any changes or ‘up-dating.’ Moving it to the cold war period (1950’s?) destroyed the original plot line and added nothing except shoe-horning a hyped-up attempt to insert some unnecessary and distracting drama. The film should have been made with a camera in one hand and Arthur Ransome’s book in the other not a camera and a misguided desire to ‘enhance’ a perfect story.
True fans of Arthur Ransome should not bother with this version but get the wonderful 1974 version which is a true reflection of Ransome’s genius.
The 2016 film is a disappointment not to say a travesty, What a shame and what a missed opportunity!