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Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
Whether you view it as an alternate reality or the illusions of demented mind, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is an intriguing place to visit. The Sandman creator's first TV miniseries suffers from the same traditional shortcomings that plague all British "telefantasy"--namely, micro-budget production values and slapdash direction that betrays a conspicuous shortage of rehearsal time. And yet, within those limitations, Gaiman and director Dewi Humphreys have crafted an ambitious exploration of "London Below," a vast, subterranean capital, far below "London Above," where office drone Richard Mayhew (Gary Bakewell) unwittingly finds himself after rescuing Door (Laura Fraser), an underworld dweller determined to learn why her parents have been killed. Gaiman teases the viewer with hints that Richard may be insane, but Neverwhere maintains its imaginative ambiguity, and presents a dark, dangerous domain of baronies and fiefdoms, bearing familiar British nomenclature but decidedly unfamiliar landmarks. Once you've visited, you might prefer to stay. --Jeff Shannon
- Aspect Ratio : 1.33:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medNotRated NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.75 x 5.5 x 1.25 inches; 9.28 Ounces
- Media Format : Color, Full Screen, NTSC
- Run time : 3 hours
- Release date : September 9, 2003
- Actors : Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Hywel Bennett, Clive Russell, Paterson Joseph
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Unqualified (DTS ES 6.1)
- Studio : A&E Home Video
- ASIN : B0000A14WF
- Number of discs : 2
- Best Sellers Rank: #58,326 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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Neverwhere The Series was my first inkling of Giaman's genius.
His star was just rising; now it soars.
In '96 Neverwhere was smart, non-stop action, smarter concept and writing. I collect creative triumphs like this BBC series (of course, the BBC touch is magic; then and now, great production values).
An example of his rising star: Neil Gainman's SANDMAN graphic novel series. I can't recall what I paid. Now[...
Sandman 10 Volume Slipcase Set Amazon's price: $399.95. (That's a deluxe collector's set.
It goes for alot less, too. I can't remember what I paid, but nothing like about $40 per graphic novel. NG's work's akin to Apple, investment-wise. Sandman 10 Volume Slipcase Set (My set, incidentally, offers 11 volumes)
Back to Neverwhere: In my past forays into British series I'd often got tangled in what
I call 'BritSpeak'. In Neverwhere, no such problem. It seems to be Americanized lingo.
It's amazing to me NG's prolific nature and how he holds the quality of his creations. He must have an Amazon page;
So check out all his work. I prefer his books - maybe because I'm from the 'Gutenberg Galaxy', reading for how something's said as much or more as what is said. NG's for me there too. Even with his kids' books.
Last rave: For me one of GN's movies, Mirrormask, is an ultimate high: Mirrormask [HD ]
Get it and see why I've seen it a half-dozen times. So far.
Here's Richard Mayhew, a young Scotsman preoccupied with living a nondescript life, engaged to an ambitious, unlikeable woman, and toiling away as a harried office jockey. The only color in his life seems to be those frighteningly bewigged little trolls festooning his work desk. But Richard's routine is shaken irrevocably when he stumbles on a girl bleeding on the street and decides to help her (his fiancee becomes not enthused). But good deeds sometimes give way to shady repercussions. Two odd gentlemen, who style themselves Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar and who we later learn are extraordinarily successful contract killers, are soon tapping on Richard's door, wondering if he had seen this girl on a "Missing" poster. Richard of course recognizes the girl, but refuses to play along. The two odd gentlemen depart, but not before throwing a hefty weight of intimidation down Richard's way.
So on and so on. The girl - who is the Lady Door and startled to find herself in Richard's flat and, what's more, in London Above - dispatches Richard to get help, and so in comes the roguish Marquis de Carabas, who does favors in return of future favors. So off the two whisk themselves away, with Richard perhaps feeling a bit underappreciated. But that's life in the trenches of a ho-hum existence. Richard attempts to return to his daily grind, only to disturbingly learn that, in the eyes of those in London Above, he has suddenly ceased to exist.
How do most behave when encountering one of the homeless? Is it true that the level of discomfort is such that we tend to shun eye contact? That we pay no heed to pleas for alms? Disregard their presence, treat 'em invisible, for all purposes discount their right to exist as real people? (Yeah, it's true.) Neil Gaiman takes this behavior and translates it into this otherworldly plot device. In his story there is a magical mandate in which the mangy inhabitants of London Below, unless they call attention to themselves, don't at all register on the consciousness of the surface dwellers. Richard Mayhew is now experiencing that same disregard.
He feels that he must seek out the Lady Door so that his life could be returned to normal. And so off he goes to London Below, an exceedingly bizarre and perilous world, where ordinary sewer people rub elbows with supernatural sorts, and a chance at revivification is harbored in a tiny box. Bewildered and quite distraught, Richard will eventually catch up with Door and get caught up in her quest, as she means to revenge herself on whosoever murdered her family. This quest would eventually sweep up in its wake several persons of note. A long forsaken angel. The vampiric Velvets. A legendary hunter whose great passion is to take out the Great Beast of London. The Blackfriars who guard a sacred key. And my favorite character, the Marquis de Carabas, who at this juncture is already hip deep in sly shenanigans.
Richard, upon first encountering the Marquis de Carabas, asks him politely: "Excuse me, I know that this is a personal question, but are you clinically insane?" As wonderfully played by Paterson Joseph, the sinisterly charming Marquis steals every scene he's in. Definitely very sly and very dodgy is the Marquis, and, as mentioned, he seems to relish granting favors in exchange for future favors. And about his dodginess, the Lady Door states: "He's a little bit dodgy in the same way that rats are a little bit covered in fur..." Still, when you're up crippitycrap creek, there isn't anyone else you'd rather have on your side. And if nothing else, he'll make you laugh:
- the captured Richard Mayhew, about to be tortured unless the supernatural Big Bad is let loose upon the world: "Door, don't do it! Don't set him free! We don't matter!"
- the Marquis de Carabas (in the same straits as Richard): "Actually, I matter very much."
It's a sort of cinematic acid trip, isn't it? And the cheap budgeting lends to that feeling. Grainy and fuzzy shots, cramped sets, unambitious special effects, embarrassing action sequences (yes, Hunter's fight with the Beast of London is less than epic)... but, whatever. My two cents is that NEVERWHERE is imaginative storytelling soaring above hampered production values (although I like the jangly twitchy score). Neil Gaiman has created a fantastic, delirious, self-contained underworld mythology, one I wish he'd someday return to. So many things to sink your teeth into. Interesting stops on the itinerary include contentious subterranean courts and fiefdoms, the ever mobile Floating Market, the dreadful Knightsbridge, a street within a house, a sprawling labyrinth housing the very frightening Great Beast of London (until, that is, you get a load of him and learn that he's just this big ox).
And one last thing about the low budget and its effect on NEVERWHERE. Thing is, I dig this mini-series so much that I've even grown fond of the weak spots. Dare I say, I've grown to even cherish the murky and cheap look of the thing? Maybe the impending film adaptation will change my perception.
Plenty of remarkable characters besides the Marquis de Carabas. Near as strong a presence as the Marquis are the very unsettling assassins, the erudite Mr. Croup and the brutish Mr. Vandemar, who uses toads for golf practice. They are pretty scary villains. The Lady Door is lovely and has a talent for opening portals where before none had existed. The implacable warrior woman known as the Hunter, played by Tanya Moodie, doesn't impress me, because of the stiff acting and because the action sequences are laughable stuff. And then there is Richard Mayhew who is remarkable for his extreme ordinariness. Which actually makes him the ideal point-of-view character. But I'm glad that Richard doesn't remain a mere bystander. As events unfold, he does get a chance to be the hero in part by undergoing the crucial Ordeal of the Key, the first step of which is a nice cup of tea. By the way, if you think the story was trippy up to this point, this episode engages in serious mind games with the viewing audience.
Special features? Some. Sit at the foot of the master as Neil Gaiman audio commentates on all six episodes, giving you tons of insight and trivia. Also included is the informative original BBC interview with Gaiman, 23 minutes long. And also Neil Gaiman's bio (which needs updating), descriptions of the characters in NEVERWHERE, and a photo gallery (15 photos).
Oh, and, yes - "Mind the gap."
The overall feel of the video is lower budget than a large production house. The acting is at times decent, the sets while interesting do feel small but the interesting story line makes up for the difference. It's similar to watching older Dr. Who where the story is more interesting and you follow it rather than noticing the flaws of the acting. The video quality is not very sharp and could be the same issue of a lower budget production.
Overall, I would recommend this dvd set if you are interested in Neil Gaiman's other works such as Stardust where adventuring in fantasy lands is the norm. It's not a super polished dvd set but still something good to watch when you are looking for something different. I gave 4 stars instead of 5 because of the slight short comings and video quality.