Wow! Such a good movie.
Overrated and overhyped
Excellent but underrated film
The film never slows down or bores, plunging from one harrowing sequence to the next.
I really enjoyed the first 6 episodes of this mini series but found the last two very weak. Overall I thought it was one of the better historical dramas I have seen. The series has a very book-like pacing and even though a lot of it is understated, the show always gives you enough to fill in the blanks. It has excellent performances, all the main cast are superb. I was hoping for something a bit more historical (like I, Claudius) but by the second episode I had become invested in the characters and the motif of the growing cathedral was very effective. The battles were well executed and mostly existed to service the plot, the costumes and the use of SFX were all very high quality. I liked that it didn't rely on moralising or pandering to 21st Century mindset. It's true that Aleina was too much of a modern 'girl power' archetype, but her suffering and situation were sympathetic and interesting enough to negate this in my opinion. A modern series would have been all about (spoiler) her rape; in this series, though it did play a major part in forming her character, in terms of her actions she pretty much just accepted it and instead focused on something far more meaningful to somebody of that time: her sense of duty to her family and the restoration of her brothers title. The series didn't divide characters into heroes and villains, most of the characters had elements of both and all of their actions can be interpreted in relation to the show's broader themes. Although the villains are a bit two-dimensional, the heroes are all very flawed and the show does not rely on poetic justice to dumb things down for us. This is a terrible world in which awful people (i.e. people) do terrible things to each other. The show is more interested in how the characters deal with this than it is in punishing or rewarding them so that the simpletons in the audience can boo or cheer appropriately.These are my feelings up to episode six anyway. While the last two episodes weren't terrible, I think the show undid a lot of the above. It becomes less interested in looking at how the numerous characters react to complex historical events, instead it begins to appeal to the lowest common demonstrators. The villains motivation becomes even less clear, while we are encouraged to cheer for the heroes doing heroic things without asking us to think about why. The fact that Jack is able to build a wall and hold off the roaming bandits for a few minutes solves absolutely nothing, but we are told to cheer because yay victory music. Why would this make any difference to William? Oh but now he's *spoilered* his *spoiler* so that whole subplot is apparently wrapped up. The 'mystery' elements of the show were always its weakest so when the White Ship and Jack's ring become the focus, the whole show suffers. That the final trial becomes all about Jack's father and resolving the uninteresting and contrived mysteries of the show is such a cliché and it just doesn't work her because they were never what the show was about. A much better ending would have been to return the focus to the historical framing of the series. Show what happened to the king, to Maud's invasion, to the world they were living in, because these are far grander and more interesting than seeing a bad guy fall off a building or the love interests getting married (in a more character-based show then yes, a character based climax is more rewarding, but this show was always about the world and how our characters relate to it than merely about the characters in themselves!).Overall I would rate the series 8/10. It's a shame it didn't finish what it started, but I still think it's one of the best historical dramas in a long time for all the reasons listed in my first paragraph. Better than the silly The Borgias or The Viking, obviously not as good as Game of Thrones.
First let me say that my review has nothing to do with the cast. Follet's novel is indeed epic with rich character & scene development that is nearly impossible to fully translate on screen. I'm an avid reader & movie lover so I completely understand if certain story lines may not translate on screen, or a superfluous scene is written as a means to arrive at the same conclusion etc. However, too many liberties were taking with the storyline to the point that I starting referencing my e-book...I never do that sort of stuff! King Stephen's delusions and obsession with Jack. Jack showing up in scenes where he didn't belong & his surprising resurrection irritated me the most. Also the storyline with Empress Maude, Robert of Gloucester & ransom/child issue was unnecessary. My critique may be too harsh and imperceptible to a viewer that hasn't read the book.
Shoehorning Folletts tome into this shallow, archetypal mini series, is inexcusable. There are a few actors here that shine (Eddie Redmayne, Anatole Taubman and Alison Pill for example) and some that have a history of shining (Donald Sutherland and Ian McShane) who don't and many that pass the screen anonymously (pretty much the rest of them). No one is given any chance whatsoever to unfold and show their character; everything is build-up climax slow-down build-up climax slow-down and so on and so on, underlined by a constant buzz of tympanies and strings to make sure we know that we are watching something dramatic.
Ken Follett's lengthy historical novel THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH is far too intricate to adapt into a feature-length production, so producers instead opted for this miniseries treatment which gives a full 8 hours to the plotting. And, quite simply, it's wonderful. THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH has it all and is up there with the best miniseries of all time – I'm thinking BAND OF BROTHERS et al. From the very first episode I was engrossed in the wonderful storyline which brings history to life via living, breathing characters caught up in intrigue, danger and romance.As somebody who hadn't read the novel previously, I had no idea what to expect. There's the usual historical backdrop stuff of warring kings and queens and battlefield showdowns, but the miniseries works so well because it focuses on the interactions between a dozen or so major characters. The thrust of the story concerns building a cathedral, but into this comes a myriad themes: drive, ambition, jealousy, love, possessiveness, religion, anger, hatred, incest, desire, and everything else besides. Essentially this is a production that explores the human condition in serious depth.The casting is excellent: Ian McShane excels as the sinister, plotting man of the cloth, Bishop Waleran, while Matthew Macfadyen is similarly fine as his nemesis, the pious Prior Philip. We get solid turns from seasoned veterans like Donald Sutherland and Rufus Sewell mixed with upbeat and engaging performances from the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Hayley Atwell, both of whom shine (especially the glorious Atwell). Although this is made for television, the battle sequences are realistic and bloody and there are strong scenarios involving rape, incest and murder which you don't see coming.Leading characters are bumped off in unbelievable plot twists and none of the eight episodes flag, each serving to add to the mystery and leave you wanting to find out what happens next. By the end, I was breathless and a changed man: I felt like I'd had my eyes opened, similar to when I saw the LORD OF THE RINGS films for the first time. This is definitely the best thing I've seen all year, and indeed one of my favourite productions of all time. If only Ridley Scott would put more effort into producing stuff like this instead of wasting his time with the Hollywood-ized likes of ROBIN HOOD