Sunday, 4 September 2016

Swallows and Amazons 2016 movie review

We watched the new Swallows and Amazons film in Keswick, where it was actually filmed in part (on Derwentwater); and the kind of Lake District area where Arthur Ransome's book was set. The omens seemed good, and the movie was clearly traditional in look and feel. But nonetheless, the whole family found the movie to be an unsatisfying experience.

For all its attention to detail - in terms of set, costumes and props - the structure of the script was incompetent - and in a way that affects many mainstream movies.

The problem in such a film is to create a child's world from the child's perspective; in which the business of sailing on a lake, camping and cooking, and the 'wars' between rival groups of children, are all genuine, gripping adventures.

(This is not really all that difficult because it is the truth - it is how things really are for real children. And many adults are pleased to remember the fact - only adolescents find this to be 'kid's stuff'.)

And in much of the early half of the movie this was done well.

But all this is destroyed by introducing genuine, adult perils and perspectives - international espionage, violence, assassins and guns (with even one the kid's handling a gun, and threatening to kill a baddie).

These aspects subvert and ruin the child's perspective by making their adventures look trivial/ escapist by comparison (they aren't really trivial at all, nor are they escapist - but that is how they are made to look).

Furthermore, the espionage elements in this movie are unconvincing - full of gross implausibilities, plot holes and ridiculous coincidences.   

So what we have here is a potentially classic short childrens' film, ruined by the addition of an alien, lame and stupid adult (or teen) 'action movie' - rendering the whole exercise ultimately a waste of time and money and resources. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

The 1974 film version of Swallows and Amazons, by contrast, does the job properly. It is 'corny' but charming and good-hearted; and maintains the proper child's-eye-view throughout.

Note: I have never read the book of Swallows and Amazons, nor any other of Ransome's books, beyond a brief inspection - although I shall probably do so at some point, as they seem very good of their type.