Truly Dreadful Film
what a terribly boring film. I'm sorry but this is absolutely not deserving of best picture and will be forgotten quickly. Entertaining and engaging cinema? No. Nothing performances with flat faces and mistaking silence for subtlety.
The only thing this miniseries has in common with the book it was "based on" (?) is the name of the characters. This is not Ken Follet's World without end, it is something entirely different. If you hsve read the book, don't watch it! If you have not read the book, go read it, it's excellent!
I note that some other reviewers here mention that they gave up watching this series part-way through Episode 1. That was probably wise, especially if you like Ken Follett's books.The series from the first book "Pillars of the Earth" was fairly satisfying. So how could "World Without End" be such a fizzer? Where do I begin?Perhaps, with all the production companies involved - from at least three different countries - simply too many cooks spoiled the broth. You get the impression that someone asked all stakeholders to fill out a questionnaire on what they wanted. Then all answers were compiled, and someone decided to include them all. None of the stakeholders had read the book? No problem.The studio moguls obviously wanted at least one international draw-card among the cast. Who gets top billing here? Cynthia Nixon! (Who?) She stood out all right, but for absolutely woeful acting. Very ably assisted by a number of ham-acting sequences by much of the cast at one time or another. (And most of these people can actually act, so you really can't blame anything except poor direction or the awful script.)I often marveled at the way the miniseries characters were turned into cartoon caricatures, making any logical character development almost impossible. The most ludicrous example was changing relatively minor book character Petranilla into a vehicle for Cynthia Nixon to channel mass murderer Lucrezia Borgia - but laughably. And while the fatal character flaws of Godwin in the novel interestingly turn him bit by bit from a basically good person towards ever greater moral degradation, the treatment in the miniseries has him labeled 'baddie' about as soon and unsubtly as possible. I'm sure black stetson hats would not have been thought amiss by some of the people putting this film together.But every character was pretty one-dimensional, good or bad. And to be honest, it was difficult to care too much about what happened to any of them. And what could even the best actors and directors do with this screenplay? Besides its careless historical deficiencies, it often just didn't come together dramatically or logically. From a rather awful first episode in which the clichés come thick and fast, the miniseries actually improves for the middle episodes, but it does eventually get tedious with the continually repeated pattern: 'goodies try to do good, baddie thwarts this for no good reason, goodies back to scratch, next item'. It's turned a complex and generally very satisfactory novel into R-rated late-night soap opera. Historical accuracy is an obvious casualty. Other reviewers have pointed out things wrong with this historically, but no-one else seems to have seen the most obvious and careless error. After witnessing a battle in France, nuns Caris and Meir are seen returning to England by ship, with this shot labeled on screen "Autumn 1341". And in the same scene we see they are accompanied at the dock by (drum roll) plague-bearing rats. Then shortly after, of course, the Black Death makes its entrance. Except that the Black Death didn't even get to Europe until 1347, and certainly not to England until 1348! The director could have got away with no date labeling here, since there was none that existed or that at least stood out anywhere else. But to get the onset of the Black Death - one of the defining events of British and European history - so publicly wrong! All you have to do is look up Wikipedia to check this! But guess what? No-one had the sense to.I was wondering if this gaffe was a result of the international crew? Was the label actually supposed to read "Autumn 1347"? (Which would have been accurate.) Could it have been that a European crew created this graphic, misreading an English "7" as a European "1? Who knows? But that may be an explanation rather than an excuse. The fact that no-one bothered to proof-read this date is completely symptomatic of the carelessness with which this series was put together.Historical accuracy apart, the plot doesn't flow logically either. I have seldom seen a story "tie all strands together" so unsatisfactorily in its concluding episode. It's not this way in the novel, but since the script artificially extends the life spans of the two now principal baddies (Godwyn and Petranilla actually die about two thirds of the way though the novel during the first wave of the Black Death), the miniseries has to somehow kill them off spectacularly. But it even manages to turn these sequences into somewhat ridiculous anticlimaxes.And the final battle! Clearly the medieval miniseries rulebook states that any remotely medieval story must end in an epic final battle, although there is no hint of such in the book and it certainly doesn't suffer for it. Having the series end with the king's army attacking Kingsbridge might have worked, if it were not so unconvincing logically and dramatically. (That's ignoring its historical inappropriateness, but when has anyone in this series cared about that?) Virtually everything about it from the tactics of both attackers and defenders, through to the fight of the two kings does not work logically. (No-one seriously notices that another knight has a sword to the throat of Edward III?!) And then Edward suddenly calls the whole thing off, with everyone obediently stopping the fight. (And really - Thomas Langley IS Edward II? Did no-one ever recognize their former king? Seriously?)I was not able to recall how this miniseries had ended the morning after I watched this last episode, despite wracking my brains and being able to blame neither alcohol nor Alzheimer's. All I actually remembered was laughing in disbelief for the last few minutes. Such was the impression it made. I give "World Without End" a reluctant two stars for the fact that it got better in the middle - for a while.
Okay, as it says, there are spoilers below.I read the reviews. Seems like those that did not read the book enjoyed the miniseries, while virtually everyone who read the book did not enjoy the miniseries.I agree completely. I read the books and the miniseries left a lot to be desired. My issue is, why change the plot so significantly? In the miniseries, many key characters were missing, Caris marries Elfric,Petronella and Godwyn are murderers, the queen hates Kingsbridge, Sir Gerald was Earl, there is no mention of Shiring, etc. etc. and I am only half way through the videos. I understand cutting it short for film, but why the huge changes? And why did Ken Follett agree to this?Did he think it was an improvement on the book? (Maybe it was, I don't know). I was just looking forward to the video version of the novel. I found myself simply comparing all of the changes which seemed needless. 1) Maybe if you haven't read the book or seen the series, watch the series first. The book is much more detailed and it will still be fresh because of the huge differences.2) The only reason I gave it 7 out of 10 is that if you have not read the book, it probably would be an enjoyable miniseries. The acting is good, the characters are good. I want to be fair to the screen version and not tainted by my having read the book. (BUT WHY THE NEEDLESS CHANGES?)3) Mr. Follett, I really hope they paid you a huge amount of cash for the video rights. Not for it being bad, just for it being basically so different from the book.Hope this helps!!
The plot deviates several times from the book, but in most cases, the miniseries plot is BETTER. I mean, why have Godwyn be a kind-of bad guy and then have Philemon be the guy who does a lot of his dirty work when you can just have Godwyn be totally evil? Cynthia Nixon's Petranilla character is also great & even though I can't stand her in Sex & the City she really shines in this. And having the one-armed monk be Edward II was a good idea and was what I thought was going to happen when I read the book.The softcore porn scenes throughout the miniseries are also a nice touch.My advice is: Read Pillars of the Earth but skip the miniseries & Watch World without End but skip the book.