Nice adaptation and background, pity about the casting
T. D. Welsh | Basingstoke, Hampshire UK | 02/13/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This series just goes to show how very, very hard it is to turn good books into screenplays. As a lifelong Hornblower fan I, like other reviewers, looked forward to seeing my favourite books played out before my eyes. But I am afraid that, for me at least, the negatives outweigh the positives. Just as a superb dish can be ruined by too much salt, "Hornblower" is spoiled by half-baked casting and the "Boys' Own" spirit that seems to permeate it.
First the good things. Excellent attention to detail in such things as period dress, customs and (of course) the ships and boats themselves. It is one thing to read about an officer being rowed out to his ship on a stormy day, quite another actually to see the waves, the ship heaving and the boat being tossed about like a cork. The screenplay follows the book quite faithfully, which is good as Forester's writing lends itself to the screen.
The killer, for me, is Ioan Gruffud himself. He looks a very pleasant young man - far too obviously nice, by the way, for the role - but, damn it, Hornblower should not be nearly so handsome! Even for an actor, Gruffud must be aware of his good looks, while Hornblower's only thoughts on the subject are self-lacerating.
Linked to this casting error, the whole action runs too smoothly downhill to the triumph of the hero. The Hornblower books are not like that at all. In most cases the outcome remains in doubt up to the very end (or, once or twice, the next book - a neat trick of Forester's that no doubt boosted sales).
The general neatness and freshness of everything is annoying, too. These were hard-driven ships and men, as today none too well funded, in the middle of England's most desperate struggle for survival until 1940.
Although it is an eye-opener to see how easily a gritty, down-to-earth story of a young man pulling himself up by his bootstrings can be converted into something Enid Blyton could have written, I just cannot stomach the result. Pity, but hardly a surprise."
Not Your Forester's Hornblower
Richard Tsuyuki | 02/24/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While this production is excellent, I cannot give it full marks as an adaptation of the books. One of the primary themes of the books is the contrast between the inner man (plagued by self-doubt, fear, seasickness) and the exterior (cold and commanding). They form an extended essay on Forester's view of the nature of command, cowardice and bravery, and the human will fighting with emotions. Much of what raises the Hornblower books above other swashbucklers of the genre goes on inside Hornblower's head. Obviously this is very hard to portray on the screen, and this series more or less declines to try. Great production values, great historical adventure, but not the Hornblower I know and love."