Finding Neverland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu—ray Disc. A Blu-ray from the format’s early days, this one showed its age.
A number of the concerns connected to sharpness. At best, the movie demonstrated decent to good delineation, but an awful lot of soft shots materialized. In particular, wider elements tended to be surprisingly ill-defined.
No problems with jagged edges or shimmering popped up, but I saw mild edge haloes at times throughout the flick. No signs of source flaws appeared, though the movie often looked grainer than usual, and I suspect some digital noise became part of the package.
Much of Neverland went with a subdued palette, as cool teal and reds pervaded much of the flick, and the tone stayed restrained most of the time. A few of the fantasy sequences brought out more vibrant hues, but colors never became memorable. The tones stayed passable but somewhat flat much of the time.
Blacks were deep and natural, while low-light shots depicted acceptable delineation. The image was just good enough for a “C-“ but I was sorely tempted to drop it to “D” levels, as it offered a disappointment.
Although the Uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack of Finding Neverland boasted more ambition than I expected, it still stayed with a generally restricted presentation, and mostly the mix emphasized general ambience. The fantasy sequences added greater spark, and various elements moved around the spectrum pretty well.
Nonetheless, things usually stayed calm, with good stereo imaging and some useful environmental elements. The surrounds added solid reinforcement - especially during storms - and the occasional unique piece, but they were usually restrained.
Across the board, the movie demonstrated good audio quality. Speech was consistently concise and natural, and I detected no edginess or issues with intelligibility.
Effects rarely taxed my system, but they were accurate and well-defined. They showed good range.
Music was bright and vivid and also offered solid dimensionality. There wasn’t much to impress, but the audio of Neverland was perfectly satisfactory.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2005? The uncompressed audio offered a bit more punch compared to the lossy mix on the DVD, and visuals might’ve been a bit tighter and more vibrant – but just a bit. Honestly, the image rarely looked better than what I’d expect from a DVD – it really lacked the panache and detail Blu-ray should bring.
The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras, and the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein, and writer David Magee. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Though the commentary covers a lot of good topics, it never quite congeals to become something special.
We do hear about a lot of production topics. The men provide notes about the cast and their work, improvisation, comparisons between fact and the movie’s fiction, the script and changes made along the way, costumes, locations, music, and various filmmaking decisions.
Quite a few nice details emerge along the way, such as how Dustin Hoffman was supposed to read some of Hook’s lines from the play but refused, and the three men interact in a genial and natural way. I also like the remarks about alternate titles, and the participants even note that they don’t much like the final choice of Finding Neverland.
So why do I view this as a less-than-stellar commentary? Because some of the usual problems emerge along the way. Dead air isn’t a big problem, but it creeps in at times.
The tendency toward praise for everything and everyone involved turns into a bigger nuisance, though, and those elements drag down the track with moderate frequency. Nonetheless, this remains a fairly informative and enjoyable piece.
Next comes a 16-minute, seven-second featurette called The Magic of Finding Neverland. We get interviews with Forster, Magee, Gladstein, producer Nellie Bellflower, author Andrew Birkin, Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Kit Palmer, and actors Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Joe Prospero, Nick Roud, Radha Mitchell, and Dustin Hoffman.
They discuss the continuing appeal of Peter Pan, the plot and theme of Neverland, the cast and their talents, the director and his style, the original stage production of Pan and related elements, prior film versions of the play, and the production’s beneficial legacy.
Since “Magic” runs a little longer than most promotional featurettes, I hoped it would present some substance. Unfortunately, it stays with very superficial matters.
I learned a little about the history of Pan, and it was slightly cool to get glimpses of other films with Depp and Winslet, but I didn’t find much of interest here. The featurette failed to inform us about useful issues.
In Creating Neverland, we get a three-minute, five-second piece. It looks at the visual effects with comments from Forster, visual effects designer Kevin Tod Haug, and visual effects producer Leslie McMinn.
They talk about the styles used for the fantasy sequences and how they were executed. It’s too short a program to be terribly meaningful, but it packs some decent information. At least it’s better than “Magic”.
On the Red Carpet runs a mere two minutes, 25 seconds as it shows some of the cast and crew as they enter one of the flick’s premieres. Hillary Clinton shows up too!
Three Deleted Scenes appear next. These last a total of two minutes, 41 seconds and feature “Pretend You Still Care” (0:50), “Only Grown-Ups Can Have Children” (0:42), and “Depending on JM Barrie” (1:02).
The first shows more tension between Barrie and his wife, while the second depicts a quick interchange in which Barrie tells Michael why he doesn’t have any kids. Finally, “Barrie” gives us a comic look at Sylvia’s growing dependence on JM. None of them are very interesting, so they all were sensible cuts.
We can watch these with or without optional commentary from Forster, Gladstein and Magee. They let us know where the scenes would have come in the movie and also explain why they were removed. The participants provide a good overview of those issues.
A five-minute, 33-second collection of Outtakes follows. Though I normally dislike these batches of foul-ups, this one works better than usual.
That’s largely because of the way Depp reacts to mistakes as well as his improvs. Some of the shots of Pan actors as they fly into walls become amusing too.
Under Movie Showcase, we’re told we’ll get “instant access to the filmmaker’s most cinematic moments that showcase the ultimate in high definition picture and sound”. What this means is that we find an alternate form of chapter search, as the “Showcase” links to three short clips that run a total of three minutes, seven seconds. The “Showcase” feels pointless to me.
The disc opens with ads for Invincible and The Prestige. No trailer for Neverland appears here.
Although Finding Neverland occasionally fires on most cylinders, it falters too much of the time to become a generally fulfilling film. Honestly, parts of it go into TV movie territory due to various obstacles that occur. The Blu-ray presents acceptable audio and a decent roster of supplements but visuals disappoint. The movie really needs a new transfer, as this one barely surpasses DVD standards.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of FINDING NEVERLAND