Where Eagles Dare, this Dan fails to follow. And where have his eyebrows gone?
2002 Dirs: Colin Frewin, Kevin Gendreau
Starring: Greg Ellis, Carole Ruggier, Rob Paulsen, Robbie Coltrane
Showing: C5, times vary
Reviewer: Nick Setchfield
Poor Dan Dare. He could have been a contender. Frank Hampson’s anvil-jawed hero was the closest that Britain ever came to a homegrown Superman or Flash Gordon. He should, by rights, have conquered the world. Of course, there’s something distinctly unBritish about becoming one of those frightful media franchises – don’t want to make a fuss, what – and so Dan sipped a quiet cup of tea while his brash colonial counterparts spawned entire industries of bedspreads, sequels and lunch boxes.
The last five decades have seen endless abortive shots at bringing Dare to life beyond the ink and paint of the comic book, from movies that might have been to television shows that never were. He finally reaches the screen with this Saturday morning kids’ fare, rendered in the liquidy, digital unreality of CGI.
It’s a strange, retro-styled hybrid of Hampson and modern, transatlantic space opera that somehow fails to satisfy either camp. Purists will applaud the ‘50s trimmings and such faithful touches as the inclusion of fabled space pet Stripy; they will also shudder at Digby’s evolution from Yorkshireman to cockney, not to mention the utter absence of Dan’s iconic squiggles of eyebrows (a little like Superman without the kiss-curl, or Indiana Jones sans the scar).
Crucially, Dan himself is perhaps the central faultline in the whole endeavour. He’s simply not Dan Dare. He’s a Monty Python Biggles, complete with strangulated, Henley Regatta vowels and cries of “Wizard!” Colin Frewin delivers a perfectly fine comedy turn, but it’s at the expense of the character. Frankly, this Dan is a bit of a braying prick.
Elsewhere, it’s obvious that a lot of love has been poured into this project. There’s an admirable colour and energy in the animation and some occasionally jaw-dropping design work. The music – dire local news styled title theme aside – approaches John Barry in places. Yes, there is spectacle and there is wit, but somehow the Eagle magic is missing in action.
One destined for the file marked noble failure.