Poldark

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Things are not going too well for Ross Poldark.

Wounded in the American War of Independence, this British soldier returns home to Cornwall after a 3 year absence. In that time his father has died, his sweetheart Elizabeth is about to marry his cousin, and the family estate is in ruins. Not exactly the perfect homecoming.

Lucky for him he has the devilish good looks of Aidan Turner (Being Human) to get by. A quick look in the mirror would cheer up the grimmest of souls. With his black locks, piercing eyes and permanent five o’clock shadow, this Ross Poldark looks like a Mills and Boon cover in search of a novel. Fittingly, this new BBC production completes the picture with all the hallmarks of a sweeping romance.

There’s the hero on the clifftops looking longingly out to sea, the girl who is betrothed to one but longs for another, panoramic vistas, lush music, grand costumes, action scenes….. It all hangs together perfectly well without any hint of surprise.

Turner, even sporting a sexy scar as Poldark‘s battle wounds, is in just about every scene of this saga. Thankfully is he is up to the task of romantic leading man. When he isn’t riding a horse he’s brooding in Cornwall, determined to polish up the family home. But there are two good-for-nothing servants Jud and Prudie (Phil Davies and Beatie Edney), and who may well have strayed off the set of Les Miserables, freeloading off the family estate and must be put to good use.

Poldark is also forced to endure the wedding of Elizabeth (Heida Reed) to his cousin Francis (Kyle Soller) where we also meet the intended villain of the piece, banker George Warleggan (Jack Farthing). The other key character is Demelza Carne (Eleanor Tomlinson), whom Poldark rescues from a street brawl thinking a young boy was copping a beating. Eventually he offers her a kitchen job, but methinks more will be served up than just kippers and mash.

Based on the novels by Winston Graham, Poldark was first a UK TV series in 1975, starring Robin Ellis. While I don’t recall the finer details of that version, I think it’s fair to say the new version turns its hero into a bit of a rock star. There are even shirtless shots of his ripped torso in upcoming episodes, as well as the occasional nude swimming scene.

This version feels heavily influenced by Scottish highlands period drama, Outlander. But while that one also dabbled in time travel it was brimming in subtext and dark themes. I didn’t feel any of those were at work in this safe and broadly-appealing reworking. A scene where Ross Poldark speaks from the heart to Elizabeth after she has wedded Francis would have made more sense prior to their nuptials.

There’s nothing inherently bad with this production, other than being a little too handsome for its own good, and it’s an easy way to while away 50 minutes. With more depth to the supporting characters and less sign-posting of its plot it has the potential to justify a reboot.

At the moment it feels like a star vehicle for its worthy leading man, who accomplishes everything other than equestrian skills, with cinematic ease.

Poldark premieres 8:40pm Sunday April 12 on ABC.

6 Comments:

  1. The original was just wonderful, I bought the video set afterwards and read all the books.
    I watched the videos again a few years ago, and loved them still.
    Ross Poldark is magic, and makes Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy look like an absolute wuss.
    The original Ross, Robin Ellis, has a part in the new version (he plays Reverend Halse in episode 3), but the gorgeous Angharad Rees who played Demelza, sadly died in 2012.
    Can you tell I’m swooning in anticipation?
    Poldark on Sunday, Game of Thrones on Monday – wow!

  2. “….other than being a little too handsome for its own good,”
    As is Aidan. .:)
    The man is ridiculously good looking and has honed continual “smouldering” down to a fine art.
    But he is also a pretty competant actor and very charismatic – think he has finally hit the big time in this role.
    Good luck to him – seems like a lovely, unassuming sort of guy.

    Yes, have heard the Cornish scenery is also stunning – apparently they had the best summer over there in years and it was uncharacteristically sunnty the whole time they were filming. They were actually hoping for some more traditional cold, misty weather to give it more atmosphere.

  3. I am actually Cornish (though left 20 years ago for WA) and am told this remake has stunning cinematography that shows off the beauty of the county quite wonderfully. So whilst the story doesn’t really fire my interest, I’ll still give it a shot out just out of curiosity.

  4. I watched the original as a kid because my parents watched it. I did watch an a couple of random episodes a few years ago on cable when I was home with the flu.

    A mix of 1700s wigs and 1970s hair styles, heavy coats and lots of Cornish politics. Not sexy at all. In 29 eps it covered the half a dozen novels published covering 25 years. There have been 6 more published after the original series was filmed, so it could go on forever.

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