JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
One cannot help but make comparison between Hallmarks Jason and the Argonauts and the previous adaptation of the same Greek myth, the Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animated classic Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Indeed, Hallmarks Jason and the Argonauts feels almost like it is a remake of Harryhausens Jason, rather than an original work that goes back to the same mythological source work. Hallmark even go so far as to adapt the same parts of the Greek myth that Ray Harryhausens Jason did the encounter with the blind seer Phineas who is tormented by harpies on the isle of Thrace; the journey through the Crushing Rocks of the Sympleglades; the encounter with the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece; and the battle with the skeletons.
Both versions also rearrange the original Greek myths somewhat. Hallmarks Jason and the Argonauts does adhere to the original Greek myths more closely than Ray Harryhausens Jason and the Argonauts the mini-series keeps to the sequence of events more so, whereas Harryhausen moved them around and made the skeleton fight into his climactic set-piece rather than merely one of Jasons challenges. Hallmark add one or two other episodes from the myths the journey to the Isle of Lemnos where the women have killed their menfolk and Jasons task of harnessing of the fire-breathing bull. Both versions also leave a great many other aspects of the story untouched the encounters with the giant six-armed Gegenees; the boxing match with King Amycus; the encounter with the bronze Stymphalian Birds; the Sirens and their deadly song; the journey through the Scylla and Charybdis; and the nymphs of Hesperides, among others.
Both versions of Jason and the Argonauts also make Medea into a far more noble character than the Greek myths do. In the original myths, Jason left Medea for Creusa, the daughter of King Creon of Corinth, which Medea responded to by killing their children, along with the Creusa and Creon. Medea was also perfectly happy to take her brother Absyrtis aboard The Argonaut and then chop him up and throw the pieces into the water in order to force her father and his armies to delay their pursuit to bury him. Hallmarks version tries to adhere more to the classical version of Medea somewhat having Medea fall in love with Jason after Hera sends Eros to shoot her with one of his arrows, as well as being a witch and using her magic to defeat Pelias but this also ends up with a decidedly schizophrenic Medea. Many of these new elements tend to undercut the romantic aspect and make the mini-series Medea seem scheming. One certainly welcomed this take on the character as it starts to buy into the vengeful Medea that we see in the myths however, the mini-series abruptly ends with Jason and Medeas marriage, which leaves everything on a decidedly ambiguous note, as though Jason is marrying someone who cannot entirely be trusted. The mini-series also introduces a new aspect to the myth Atalanta having an unrequited crush on Jason, where we get the impression that he would be better off abandoning the scheming Medea and going off with her but she ends put by the wayside at the ending. One gets the impression that these elements were possibly there and maybe even shot but ended up being abandoned for purposes of bringing the mini-series in on time or perhaps retained for a potential sequel.
The inevitable comparison to Ray Harryhausens Jason and the Argonauts ends up making Hallmarks Jason and the Argonauts pale considerably, even despite the fact that Hallmarks version is being made nearly 40 years later and has the benefit of much greater advances in film technology. Ray Harryhausens stop-motion animation effects have been replaced by CGI, much to their detriment. The disappointment about Hallmarks Jason and the Argonauts is that while Ray Harryhausens effects made for a special effects masterpiece, the CGI replacing them here looks like work that has been produced in a hurry and with budgetary corners cut. The dragon guarding the Golden Fleece, for instance, only looks like a big CGI cartoon effect. Most disappointing is the fight with the skeletons grown from the dragons blood where the acrobatics that Jason London is engaged in do not seem to be remotely reacting with the CGI skeletons. The best sequence is the appearance of the Harpies, courtesy of the Henson Creature Workshop, which is choreographed by Nick Willing with wonderfully fearsome regard. Try as it might, the mini-series fails to fly with the wonderfully fantastic imagination that Ray Harryhausens Jason and the Argonauts did.
Jason and the Argonauts certainly employs the lush production values that all Hallmark productions share and in this regard is an improvement on the 1963 version. This, along with Hallmarks Hercules, are versions of the Greek myths told with an emphasis on an historical realism, which makes for welcome difference over the other pervading view of Greek myth around at the time Renaissances entirely unserious Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994-99).
Jason London is probably too young to make for a convincing Jason. London at least plays the part with a handsome certainty, although is far too brooding to seem a convincingly heroic leader. The surprise in the cast is Jolene Blalock, better known subsequently as the Vulcan Tpol in tvs Enterprise (2001-5). Blalock is made up and photographed with a ravishing beauty as though the cinematographers and makeup people ended up falling in love with her and wanted to craft the show as a tribute to her beauty. The best performance comes from that old trooper Dennis Hopper. Hopper gets his teeth into the part of the crusty aging king and plays with a genuine viciousness.
Hallmarks other works of genre note are: the sf mini-series White Dwarf (1995), The Canterville Ghost (1996), Gullivers Travels (1996), Harvey (1996), the Christmas musical Mrs Santa Claus (1996), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1996), the childrens horror Shadow Zone: The Undead Express (1996), the medical thriller Terminal (1996), The Odyssey (1997), the cloning thriller The Third Twin (1997), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997), the monster movie Creature (1998), Merlin (1998), the sf film Virtual Obsession (1998), Aftershock: Earthquake in New York (1999), Alice in Wonderland (1999), Animal Farm (1999), A Christmas Carol (1999), the tv series Farscape (1999-2003), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1999), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999), Arabian Nights (2000), the modernised Hamlet (2000), Prince Charming (2000), the mini-series The 10th Kingdom (2000) set in an alternate world where fairy-tales are true, the medical thriller Acceptable Risk (2001), The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001), Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001), The Monkey King/The Lost Empire (2001), My Life as a Fairytale: Hans Christian Andersen (2001), Snow White (2001), the series Tales from the Neverending Story (2001), the fantasy adventure Voyage of the Unicorn (2001), the Sherlock Holmes film The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002), Dinotopia (2002), The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), the Christmas film Mr St. Nick (2002), the Christmas film Santa Jr (2002), Snow Queen (2002), the modernised A Carol Christmas (2003), Children of Dune (2003), the American Indian legends mini-series Dreamkeeper (2003), the childrens monster film Monster Makers (2003), Angel in the Family (2004), A Christmas Carol (2004), Earthsea (2004), 5ive Days to Midnight (2004) about forewarning of the future, Frankenstein (2004), King Solomons Mines (2004), the Christmas film Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (2004), Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone (2005), Hercules (2005), the thriller Icon (2005), Meet the Santas (2005), Mysterious Island (2005), the disaster mini-series Supernova (2005), The Curse of King Tuts Tomb (2006), the disaster mini-series The Final Days of Planet Earth (2006), Merlins Apprentice (2006), the bird flu disaster mini-series Pandemic (2006), the disaster mini-series 10:15 Apocalypse (2006), the psychic drama Carolina Moon (2007), the psychic drama Claire (2007) and the ghost story Something Beneath (2007).