Latest Review – Saving Mr. Banks (Blu-ray) (Walt Disney Studios)

Saving Mr. Banks

Director: John Lee Hancock

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures | BBC Films | Essential Media | Ruby Films | Hopscotch Features

UK Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures [Theatrical] | Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment [Home Ent.]

Year: 2013

Country: United States | Australia | United Kingdom

Genre: Drama | Biography | Comedy

Running Time: 125 minutes (2:05:08)

Region Code: A | B | C

Rating: PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (24fps)

Codec: AVC

Image: Colour

Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 [Main Feature] | English Dolby Digital 2.0 [Audio Described Track]

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH | Danish | Finnish | Norwegian | Swedish

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“Winds in the East, mist coming in. Like something is brewing, about to begin. Can’t put my finger on what lies in store, but I fear what’s to happen all happened before.” 

… Thus begins director John Lee Hancock’s nostalgic, sentimental, and yet irresistibly charming, biographical examination of the origins of what is without doubt one of Walt Disney Studios’s most cherished, endearing and widely acclaimed productions of all; the film being the five-time Academy Award-winning (and thirteen-time nominated) 1964 classic, ‘Mary Poppins’.

Determined to fulfil a promise made to his two daughters, the cinematic icon, Walt Disney has spent the past twenty years attempting to acquire the film rights to a live action adaptation of Pamela “P. L.” Travers’ beloved ‘Mary Poppins’. In London in 1961, the now financially struggling author reluctantly agrees to travel to Los Angeles to meet with Disney at the insistence of her literary agent, Diarmuid Russell. Armed with his iconic creative vision, Walt pulls out all the stops, but the uncompromising Travers won’t budge. Only when he reaches into his own complicated childhood does Walt discover the truth about the ghosts that really haunt Travers.

Penned by screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, the film offers an extremely loose adaptation of the events reported in historical accounts, clearly expanding on the more compelling and insightful points in the film’s creation process (no matter how small), creating their own fictitious episodes and often verging into stereotypical territory in their slightly liberated character development, all in the hope of delivering a more intriguing and stimulating piece.

Whether this makes for more interesting viewing is of course down to individual opinion, however the question remains over whether the screenwriters should have been allowed such free roam to establish their own fabricated view on true events.

In the main dramatic premise that underlines the film, Disney himself gives in to every demand Travers makes, the reason being that he has not yet persuaded Travers to hand over the film rights. This is of course not true as Disney had already secured the film rights when her consultation of the script began. Again, arguably the film’s strongest scene, that in which Disney unexpectedly turns up at Travers’ London home and movingly convinces the author to allow him to make the film, did not happen. In truth, Travers disapproved of the tone of the music, the manner in which the writers had reduced the severity of Mary Poppins’ character, and strongly objected to the use of animation, with Disney dismissing her requests, overruling her objections, and indicating that, as stated in the contract, he had final say on the finished film, so again the cordial relationship between the two, as presented in the film, is largely fictionalised.

The central focus of the film is on the relationship between Travers and Disney, yes, however the deepest and most affecting scenes are probably those which explore the real origins of the character of Mary Poppins, and the factors which have led to Travers becoming the overly protective author she has become.

Travers’ childhood in turn of the Century Allora, Queensland (in the heart of the Australian outback) is depicted through an array of very effective flashbacks, carefully examining her close relationship with her devoted, alcoholic, banker father, Travers Robert Goff, and her somewhat distant relationship with her mother, Margaret, and it is through these flashback that we are introduced to the real inspiration for Mary Poppins, and of course many of the themes and objects which appear at various points in the life of the older Travers. Mary Poppins is in truth a far cry from the harmless family classic it is widely known to be. Instead it was written with the intention of preserving Travers’ childhood memories and as a means of coping and facing her troubled past. This is it has to be said very well conveyed in the film and in doing so instantly makes us change and question our opinion of the bitter, apprehensive author initially presented, as we gradually learn exactly why it is that she feels so strongly against handing over her cherished character to the consumerist world.

Performances across the board are superb. An outstanding Emma Thompson heads the ensemble as Travers, and her emotional journey from embittered author to the character we see at the close of the film is a joy to watch. Tom Hanks in all honesty does not get as much screen time as might be expected (more so in the latter stages), however his portrayal of the iconic Walt Disney is captivating. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman are both excellent as the Sherman Brothers’ (Robert B. and Richard M., respectively) and Paul Giamatti is a delight as Pamela’s chauffeur, Ralph.

From a creative point of view, the film is beautifully constructed. Hancock’s imaginative vision is clearly realised, John Schwartzman’s cinematography is rich, immersive and utterly alluring, and the Academy Award-nominated score from Thomas Newman is as exquisitely composed as expected, perfectly blending the familiar Sherman Brothers’ melodies with his own stirring orchestral arrangements.

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Presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, this new AVC encoded 1080p High Definition presentation from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is pretty much faultless.

The warm, sun-kissed colour palette utilised in the film is rich and beautifully saturated throughout, with natural skin-tones and vibrant gold-tinted hues, effectively enhancing the visual magic of the Californian and Australian locations.

Contrast and black levels are consistently deep, with only the slightest hint of any crushing apparent in some of the film’s darkest frames.

The image is pretty much crystal clear throughout, with excellent levels of fine detail, textural detail and crisp, clean definition, with the only instances of any image softness coming in the forms of the specific artistic camera techniques used, allowing excess glare/light into the lens.

As previously mentioned, image quality is superb. There are no signs whatsoever of any image artefacts, debris, speckling or banding to report, and there is a very nice layer of fine, natural grain intact throughout.

The English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix provided for the main feature is equally as strong as the visual presentation, and though never excessively dynamic, does present consistent levels of crisp, clean and well rendered dialogue, strong effects (when required), a sumptuous presentation of Thomas Newman’s score and a very well prioritised balance between the various levels.

Of course a good deal of the film takes place inside the Disney Studios’ building, and though we do get some beautifully balanced audio during the Sherman Brothers’ demonstrations of their now world famous songs, the surround mix really comes into its own in the exterior scenes, most notably during the flashbacks to Travers’ childhood, Walt and Travers’ trip to Disneyland, and the Los Angeles premiere of the film, where we have strong levels of fidelity, natural ambience and pleasing width across the surround channels.

A warm, crisp and effectively immersive audio mix, without proving overly intrusive or unnecessarily dynamic.

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Special Features:

Deleted Scenes: Stargaze (0:02:15); Nanny Song (0:02:20); Pam Leaves (0:02:27)

The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to the Present (0:14:35)

“Let’s Go Fly A Kite” (0:01:47)

Sneak Peeks: Ratatouille: The Ride (0:00:32); Disney Junior (0:00:32); Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray (0:01:08); Maleficent Theatrical Trailer (0:01:20); Mary Poppins Blu-ray (0:01:32)

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Release Date: Available Now

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1 COMMENT

1 COMMENT

  1. Such an insightful and intelligently written piece. Thank you.
    Totally agree that scriptwriters seem to have far to much leniency in
    bending the truth these days. Would love to have seen what a true
    account of events would have been like.

    p.s. Tom Hanks is not in the film enough either. :p

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