Friday, 2 May 2014

Neverwhere (1996)

If IMDB is to be believed, this is the first screenplay Neil Gaiman wrote.  I've mostly enjoyed his film and TV work, but he was also responsible for the 2007 Beowulf.  Which was ... not good.

Another cause of concern for me was the fact that this was a mid-90s BBC production, which meant its budget was something like £27 and a packet of crisps.

Richard Mayhew is a very ordinary fellow who stumbles into an extraordinary situation when he finds an injured woman in the street.  She insists that she just needs rest, not a hospital, so he takes her back to his apartment.

The next morning, two strange men turn up at his doorstep.  They show him a picture of the woman he's helping, and claim she's their sister Doreen, but Richard - despite not showing a lot of sense in any other part of this life - does not fall for this subtle ruse.  Unable to locate her, the men leave.

The young woman - whose actual name is Door - then sends Richard on an errand to fetch help.  Through this experience, he learns of 'London Below', an entire parallel city beneath the one he knows.  Unfortunately for Richard, by interacting with this other society, he comes under its aegis, and cannot return to his ordinary old life.  He thus joins Door on her quest to locate the person who had her family killed.

There are many things to like about Neverwhere.  The alternate society Gaiman develops is quite interesting (if occasionally quirky just for the sake of it) and there are some good moments of dialogue, but it's definitely something you watch for the potential, not the actual product.  It's hampered by its budget, as I feared it would be (especially in the scene with the Beast of London), there's at least one painfully bad performance, and the lighting is completely wrong.  Literally completely wrong: they shot the footage on video, but with lighting for film, because they planned to use a post-production process to give it a 'film look', and then didn't use the process.  Oops.

So overall, a very flawed effort, but not without some merits.  Given the advances in film technology in the last 15+ years, I'd be interested to see a remake.

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