CAPTAIN’S LOG: The Treasure I’d Steal
I broke a rule for this show. Granted, it’s a rule I made up for myself, but it counts.
Normally, I never watch movie versions of the shows I’m working on. Not that those movies aren’t awesome – because they are – but inevitably I end up comparing my work to what another director did. When I watch a movie, I see another director’s vision of the story, I see his/her solutions to any tricky elements, and I see a cast of performers who’ve put their own spin on the roles. When I don’t watch the movie, I have to come up with those things for myself. For me, that means I have a deeper understanding of the show before there’s a cast, scenery, etc., which makes it easier for me to bring it to life onstage.
However, lots of other directors like to watch other adaptations of their show to help gather ideas and see what other very smart artists have accomplished. Watching another version doesn’t mean those ideas will be copied; think of them as inspiration instead. So for Treasure Island, I decided to break my rule (like a true pirate would) and sat down with a stack of DVDs to see what kind of ideas they would bring me. Here’s a list of the treasures I wish I could steal from each version:
Treasure Island (1990)
Starring Charlton Heston as Long John Silver and Christian Bale as Jim Hawkins.
What’s unique about this version: It’s almost 100% faithful to the book; a lot of the dialogue is pulled directly from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel.
What I’d steal if I could: The big budget special effects – especially in the fight sequences. Jim’s fight with Israel Hands is visually stunning with lots of quick cuts and ocean views.
Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
Starring Tim Curry as Long John Silver, Kevin Bishop as Jim Hawkins, and Kermit the Frog as Captain Smollett.
What’s unique about this version: This is definitely the silliest version I watched, and I mean that in the best way. The violence was toned down the slightest bit, but always with a sense of humor. (After Billy Bones dies, Rizzo the Rat exclaims, “He died? And this was supposed to be a kid’s movie!”)
What I’d steal if I could: I think this version has the most fully developed relationship between Jim and Long John Silver. In a departure from the book, they get a final scene together before Long John’s escape that is a fitting end to a complicated dynamic. I hit rewind to watch it several times.
Treasure Planet (2002)
Starring Brian Murray as Long John Silver, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jim Hawkins, and Emma Thompson as Captain Smollett.
What’s unique about this version: It’s animated! It’s set in outer space! Treasure Planet is a super-imaginative departure from the original. The pirates are aliens and cyborgs. The map is an advanced piece of technology. The overall look is very different but very cool.
What I’d steal if I could: The soundtrack. “I’m Still Here” was stuck in my head for days after watching this one.
These adaptations are all wonderful in their own way. My big takeaway from watching them? Each version is extremely different. There’s no one way to tell this story; there’s no one way to play these characters. I am liberated by that thought. As rehearsals begin tonight, the cast and crew will start to find some of the specifics that make our version unique. QCT’s production of Treasure Island isn’t going to be like anyone else’s production. Isn’t that exciting?
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