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This is an exceptional adaptadation of the book. An all-star cast which
gives merit and worthwhile to the tv-film and Danson in his best performance
yet as a sailor who becomes lost at sea, only to return some years later a
different man - a man who has learnt alot of humanity in his journey's and a
man casted as insane.
Throughout the movie you don't know whether Danson's character is sane or not. The amazing effects and direction make it a marvel to watch. The all-star cast enjoy their roles to the hilt.
The sequences within the asylum are disturbing, as are Danson's twisted hatred on humans, and what they have become. And in some aspects the thought-provoking stories that Gulliver went through can still be adapted today.
For example the "we drink when we are not thirsty and eat when we are not hungry" is a typically haunting line. The social commentary which underlines the novel and indeed this film can still be used and adapted today.
This is a thought-provoking, well made TV-film that is very enjoyable, and I recommend you watch it.
My Rating: 8/10
Swift's writing really has more in common with Kafka and Orwell than with
fantasy-adventure writers, so it's curious that Gulliver's Travels has been
deemed a children's novel. Lucky kiddies!
The same applies to this movie. There have been some really awful versions of this story, which must be why people are reluctant to look at this version. I mean, it's a TV-movie and it comes from muppetteer Jim Henson, so how should we expect anything but cuteness?
Look again - beauty turns up in the oddest places. Children love this movie enough to sit through all three hours of it, but it also takes the time to get Swift's dark vision right. I hate special effects, but here they are used to carry the story forward instead of just dazzling us. Please note that the producers took the trouble to recruit classical actors like John Gielgud and Peter O'Toole who perform their eccentric roles with perfection.
Dramatically, the romance between Gulliver and Glumdalclitch is rendered touching and poignant, as well as funny (she's a little girl, but twenty times his size). The frame-story has a theme about absent fathers that many children will relate to. And the part about Gulliver in the asylum introduces an element of horror dealing with the abuse of authority (apparently deriving from Val Lewton's "Bedlam" , another forgotten masterpiece).
The VHS is always turning up in the bargain-bin for a few cents, which is an insult to the many great artists who put this thing together. I encourage audiences to recognize a good thing by getting this movie and inspiring others to watch it. Although it has a lot to offer children, grown-ups will find that it stands up nicely to such classics as Aguirre, Brazil, 1984 and other serious fantastic works.
This film is wonderful example of the quality dramas that Channel 4 and the BBC have produced over the years. Ted Danson delivers a powerful performance of a man tormented by memories noone will accept, and a society that believes he is insane. It is a remarkable performance by a man most known for his role in Cheers, a TV comedy sitcom. The supporting cast are all very well chosen, not least Mary Steenbergen, Danson's wife, who acts the part of Gulliver's wife in the film. But above all it is the seamless and very delicate shifts between our world and Gulliver's world that make this film. The difference in perspective between giants and midgets, all acted by real actors is beautifully captured. A rare treat of cinematography and direction.
This has got to be without a doubt, the best adaption of Gullivers Travels that I have ever seen. It is visually stunning, with wonderful special effects (you really can't tell whats real and what's not now!) and a stunning cast. Ted Danson is perfect in his role of Lemual Gulliver, and he plays it with the right amount of emotion and anger. It enthralled me from the very beginning, from his first day back home, to the land of the Whinnims and Yahoos. And who can forget the frighting scene as the ill and blind but immortal women cry out 'You'll never die!' Although I have many favourite scenes I think my favourite is the court scene where Gulliver gets the upper hand. That scene is very exciting and tense and your rooting for him all the way. All in all wonderful stuff. Something that should be shown in school across the world, for there is a powerful message is it: Are we humans not simply just a race of Yahoos?..........
We all know bits and pieces of Gulliver's travels. Tiny people, yeah,
sure. Liliputians. Giants too, some of us may recall. Some might
remember the word yahoo comes from here. That's were it stops for most
Swift's book is omnipresent in school libraries. That's were i first read it, and there's were a lot of people read it for the last time. It is treacherously lightly written, like many of the old adventure books. Children can read it. Still, it's dripping with satire, black and uncompromising. That's something I think most screen writers forget when they adapt this movie.
This movie remembers, however. Our hero, Ted Danson, gives a credible and serious performance as the world-adjusted man who's thrown to mysterious countries so like our own. Gulliver's travels criticizes everything. Theists, scientists, government, commonfolk, ethnicity, humanity itself. Few are spared, and most of the satire is just as fresh today.
While very faithful to the story, the movie also dares adding new angles, all which work very well. The screen writer deserves all credit for managing to balance so well between time and activity(it's not boring, that is).
Production values are way beyond a TV movie. With some marketing this movie would have done well at the box office. All of the fantastic worlds Gulliver visits are well-made, explained in detail and often very funny, much like Swift's book.
Actors are all pros, since this is a British production. Mary Steenburgen stands out, along with James Fox's Dr. Bates, the chillingly cruel doctor who, much like nurse Ratched, only wants the patient's best.
So, a modest proposal, if you ever get the chance to get this movie, do so. It's a real treat.
Ted Danson was a great choice to play Gulliver. Even though his
background was mostly comedy, he shows here that he can do drama just
as well or perhaps even better (though there is a lot of humour in
this). Hard to turn a blind eye to his American accent especially since
his character is supposed to be English but that's just a minor thing.
All the villains are equally well cast: James Fox, Edward Fox, Peter O'Toole, Warwick Davis, John Standing, etc. Despite the fact that most of them are either tiny people or giants, they are 100% believable in everything they do and their motivations are very clear e.g. the Lilliputians' unremitting suspicion of Gulliver, Grildrig the (giant) dwarf's hatred of him for usurping his position as court jester, Dr. Bates' attempt to have Gulliver proved insane so he can marry Mary.
Mary Steenburgen is great as Mary Gulliver (another 17th Century English character with an American accent but never mind). She is a deeply tormented character because she has been waiting nine years for her husband to return home and when he finally does, he is talking about tiny people, giants, a flying island and talking horses! Mary, despite the strong fantasy element in the story, is a very believable character.
The special effects are breathtaking especially when you consider that it was filmed on a television scale at a time when CGI was in its infancy. It looks very realistic when we see a 6 foot tall man walking through a city filled with people who are 6 inches tall.
The cameos are great as well: Omar Sharif, Richard Wilson, Sir John Gielgud, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ned Beatty. All great actors who create a strong supporting cast that complement Danson's superb acting ability.
The Houynhnhms and the Yahoos are probably the most effective element of the story on the satire side of things: a society of talking horses who do not possess any of the vices that humans have while the Yahoos are primitive, disgusting humans who mate forcefully and appoint their leader depending on how disgusting he is. Gulliver and Mistress' study of them is also very well done and displays the differences and similarities between humans and Yahoos.
The best version of "Gulliver's Travels" by far and one of the best mini-series ever.
GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (1996/MTV/NBC) ***1/2 Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, James Fox, Peter O' Toole, Alfre Woodard, Ned Beatty, Thomas Sturridge, Sir John Gielgud. Excellent mini-series adaptation of Jonathan Swift's classic satirical novel about Lemuel Gulliver (Danson in a fine performance) and his near descent into madness after his journey and many adventures amongst many different people including the legendary Lilliputians (the wee folk) and the the Brobdingnagians (giants) with splendid supporting cast and grandiose production design. Hats off to the special effects thanks to Jim Henson's effects shop and able direction by Charles Sturridge.
Excellent story-telling and cinematography. Poignant, biting social
Superb effects. Well-filmed and acted.
However, the parallel action between the present and the travel adventures (though very well done) at times drags on a little too much (about 3 hrs), and over-interrupts the flow of the story.
I first read the book as a child, and enjoyed the parts about the giants and the tiny people -- but the book lost me when it got to the floating island and the land of the "yahoos"! Well, although the adventure plot may sound like a children's story, it's in fact a very adult story, full of symbolism about the moral decay in England at the time of Jonathan Swift, the author of the novel that the film is based upon.
Despite its many faults, Hallmark's 1995 version of Gulliver's Travels
is still the finest adaptation of Jonathan Swift's satirical classic -
largely because it not only includes ALL of Gulliver's many travels but
also includes the satire that's often overlooked. Unfortunately the
twin problems of the book's highly episodic structure and a television
budget (even a fairly lavish one) remain. The book is a somewhat
rambling collection of traveller's tales moving simply from one surreal
landscape to another, but Simon Moore's adaptation tries to impose some
order on the chaos by providing a parallel plot that sees Gulliver
returned to England clearly deeply traumatised and trying to prove his
way out of the insane asylum where the rival for his wife's affections
has had him committed. The England scenes at once mirror and comment on
the travels, elements of which occasionally spill over into the real
world. The trouble is that for the first hour or so it acts more as a
distraction, constantly pulling you away from the story just as it
starts to get interesting. The Lilliput scenes suffer worse here, with
the feeling that the home scenes are too often designed to save them
from filming the more expensive setpieces - this has to be the only
version where we don't see Gulliver pulling the Blefescu fleet behind
Yet once Gulliver makes his escape, the tone becomes more consistent as he finds his situation reversed and himself the pet of the giants of the Utopians of Brobdingnag, a guest of the wise men of the floating island of Laputa who are so engrossed in science that they have no common sense left, the guest/prisoner of a historian who leans history directly from the source, offered immortality with all it's terrible consequences before finally finding a world he wants to belong if only he can convince the sublime talking horses the Houynhnhms that he's not an uncivilized Yahoo, each new destination convincing him of what an absurd and petty species humanity is. For the most part it's a darker set of Travels than expected, with only Gulliver's curiosity and commonsense and disappointment keeping it from plunging into irretrievable bleakness - and even this is offset by the scenes in the asylum where it becomes more obvious that even if he is telling the truth it may well have driven him genuinely insane. It's in these latter scenes that Ted Danson's Gulliver really shines, never more so than in an extraordinary speech where he turns his trial into a disappointed judgment on the whole human race.
Being made for television, the Yahoos are rather less literally scatological here than on the page, but for the most part this is a more adult treatment than you might expect with no real dumbing down. The star cast is certainly impressive, and for the most part well-used (if somewhat briefly in a few cases) - Mary Steenburgen, James Fox, Peter O'Toole, Edward Woodward, Omar Sharif, Shashi Kapoor, Edward Fox, Ned Beatty, Alfre Woodard, Kristin Scott Thomas and Isabelle Huppert among them. It's hard to imagine the upcoming Jack Black version even coming close to being a fraction as impressive as this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Considering the rubbish Hallmark has come up with since, it's easy to
how good this was. As an adaptation of the book, this is easily the best
version, and is the only version to include all four parts of the book. (I
do have one reservation, which will be addressed). Obviously, some
points are lost, as the book contains many 'topical' references to persons
and occurrences from the early 18th Century which would go completely
unnoticed nowadays by anyone who has not made an academic study of the
The book had Gulliver make four separate voyages to each land, but here
in most versions that include more than one part) Gulliver discovers all
lands in one long voyage. Whilst this removes a reasonably important
of the book's framing device (The progressively worse treatment of
by the ships crews reflect Gulliver's own estrangement from the human
it does make the film flow better. The films own framing device allows
more information to be imparted, although I do believe too much time is
spent on the back-story accompanying it.
The Lilliputian and Brobdingnagian segments are very well done- all the major points covered in the book are dealt with very economically. It is with the next part that my reservation arises. Laputa, the Academy and the Glubbdubdrib necromancy are very well adapted, but the depiction of the immortal Struldbruggs show an incredible lack of courage. In the book, the Struldbruggs are cursed with immortality, but not eternal youth and depicts gibbering, desiccated husks millennia old. Here, the 'curse' of immortality is simply blindness, and totally betrays the book. However, this remains the first time (to my knowledge) that the Houyhnhnms section has been filmed, a section that has given Swift a reputation (probably undeserved) of being a misanthrope). Here, the odious Yahoos are kept as vile as they are in the book and, although the impact of the ending has been softened, the blow is still there.
The film is very well done indeed, with perfect art design, costuming and atmospheric direction by Sturridge- the Glubbdubdrib section is brilliantly eerie. Ted Danson is nothing short of fantastic, in a studied yet emotional performance. Steenbergen is less memorable, but still effective. The star-studded supporting cast impresses throughout, especially to O'Toole's Lilliputian Emperor and Nicholas Lyndhurst's Clustril (it is oddly satisfying to have a lead actor in 'Cheers' sharing scenes with a lead actor from 'Only Fools and Horses!) The music is perfect, with the rousing theme music, the Indian- influenced but otherworldly Laputan music and the primitive percussion of the Yahoo sections.
In summary, this is a great, though qualified success. There will never be a film version that does full justice to the book, but this is as close as we're probably going to get.
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