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"Gormenghast"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Gormenghast" More at IMDbPro »

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

It's so hard to find outstanding villians these days.

8/10
Author: C00L_HAND_LUKE from Toronto
9 January 2003

WOW! Outstanding in every respect. Original, bold, fresh, topped off by outstanding acting by all, but most notably, Christopher Lee. One of the BBC's FINEST. Setting and costumes are impressive and unique to say the least. Cinematography once again, worth mentioning. Nothing mundane here, all around impressive. Characters, unlike most of the crud we get from Hollywood have some depth, which was more than welcome with me. It's so rare that characters actually capture you for their uniqueness; my personal favotire is Mr. Steerpike. All you have to do to see what I mean by villian with depth is watch this, and then something like Die Another day. This character relies on his witts rather than his muscles. I wanted so much for him to achieve his goal, but then realized...well, you didn't think I would tell you everything did you?? Watch it, a truly remarkable film.

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Ossified Medieval Culture

8/10
Author: LBytes from Atwater, CA
7 September 2004

This BBC mini-series is actually a combination of the books Titus Groan and Gormenghast. In 4 - 1 hour parts, being from the BBC they're really close to a whole hour as opposed to the usual 45 minute network episodes.

Gormenghast is an ancient kingdom that must be located somewhere in Europe, since it is populated with Europeans. More specifically, it is populated with really odd Europeans, which sounds more like Great Britain. In fact it is a fictional location in which Mervyn Peake has created an extremely ossified culture, technologically stagnant, that indulges itself in numerous obscure rituals that cover almost all routine events, written down in huge books and applied as if their lives depended on it.

The story centers around the Groans, who's male heirs rule as Earls. Titus is set to become the 77th Earl of Groan, and as he matures he sees it as his doom rather than his destiny, and comes to despise Gormenghast.

At first, however, he's just a baby and the story centers on his father and the odd ducks that are his family and servants. Into this mix is added Steerpike, a kitchen boy of huge ambition that finds ways to ingratiate, titillate and extort his way to a much higher position, hardly killing anyone at all to get there. The Groans and Gormenghast in general are so dense and caught up in the minutiae of their lives it takes them years to realize that there's a raccoon in the chicken house, so there's plenty of story to take up a 4 hour mini-series.

I read these two books once upon a time and hardly remember them. I believe the BBC series plays Steerpike a bit more sympathetic than the books did. The trilogy has been compared to LOTR and the Thomas Covenant trilogy, both of which I liked more than Gormenghast. Gormenghast is fiction not fantasy, there are no dragons, orcs or hobbits. The kingdom appears to be mostly medieval with some touches of modernity here and there. The closest thing to monsters are the huge Death Owls.

What makes the mini-series work is a very talented cast that bring their characters to life. They make it a pleasure to watch, if only once. 8/10

The 2 DVD set has a Making Of, Cast interviews, a few unrelated trailers. It is all shot in a peculiar not-quite 4:3 or 16:9 format, at least the way my hardware decoded it to the screen. Video and audio are strictly TV quality, with video colorful if a bit smeared and audio all upfront mono as far as I could tell. The DVDs get a 6/10 for getting it on my screen but not much else.

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Good looking adaptation

Author: Dodger-9 from York
5 January 2000

This looks like being the year of big budget gothic adventure (all featuring Christopher Lee) with Sleepy Hollow packing them in at multiplexes around Britain and The Lord of the Rings trilogy currently shooting in New Zealand - not to mention this lavish mini-series which is one of the biggest fantasy productions ever staged on British TV.

Gormenghast spent five years in production and it seems like all the hard work was worth the wait.

With an impressive cast including Celia Imrie, John Sessions, Warren Mitchell and Jonathan Rhys Myers, the BBC have ensured that Mervyn Peake's classic tale of murder, seduction and tragic events striking the family of a crumbling castle is a faithful version of a literary classic.

At one point, Sting owned the rights to the books and was planning to star in a movie version - he settled for playing Steerpike in an adaptation from 1984.

It's perhaps best that this ended up as a TV drama: The plot and scale of the original material is far too dense to do justice in a two hour movie.

The casting is excellent, the special effects are fine and direction by Andy Wilson is assured.

Well worth a look.

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22 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

What a waste of a great book and a stellar cast.

1/10
Author: Wynne (Wynne@comcast.net) from USA
8 June 2002

My full agreement with the fellow who said "the scriptwriters should be executed".

Perhaps the worst thing about Gormenghast is the horrendous, galling waste of what could have potentially been the best movie ever made. Look at those actors! Anyone who can say "the movie was faithful to the book" is either comparing it to the most outlandishly unfaithful adaptations of all time or simply did not read the same novels I read (and I read them before the movie, so you know I'm going to be riled... although I am generally very open-minded and don't expect a movie to match a book exactly, I )

Some of the warpings are forgivable and understandable, but far too many are appalling. Most notable is the way that they tore the heart out of Fuschia's chest and stuffed it into Steerpike's, ruining what is perhaps the most captivating aspect of Mervyn Peake's generally spellbinding fiction--that is, besides the gothic beauty (which ended up as campy bright pastel fantasy castles in the movie).

In the books, Steerpike is not a 'nice guy deep down' who just goes wrong because he isn't loved by the foolish, selfish woman. I suspect the scriptwriters were misogynists. No, in the books, Steerpike is perhaps the most compelling and hideous villain ever concocted... exactly what makes him so unique is that he is at once ~entirely sympathetic~ and ~entirely wicked~. No, wicked is not the word... more like soulless, heartless, devoid of any human emotion. He values... ~things~, not people. That Mervyn Peake has written him so it takes you nearly the entire series, up until the VERY end to finally hate him with a black passion that will never die, is quite a marvel. How brilliantly the author sets you up.

Fuschia, in the movie, is nothing but a brat who never grows into a woman--in fact, she worsens into a brainless child with no willingness to choose love over safety. This is flagrant reversal of the true character.

Fuschia was THE most sympathetic character in the entire book. At the end, I literally felt like all the beauty had gone out of the world. I cried my heart out as if my own sister was lost to me. She would never have rejected Steerpike, NEVER! She would have sooner cut her own throat! She was bored with the stuffiness and suffocated by the traditions and so full of loneliness and heartache deep down. She was smart and had a good heart, but she had no real pride--she was just brought up in nobility, and her prejudices were an idiocy she grew out of. She longed for someone to care about and love her... the reason she rejected Steerpike in the end was because despite how high she held her torch for him, some part of her always knew that he had no soul underneath that charm. When he spoke to her in anger and was violent with her, that was the last straw. Good for her. A brave and true heroine, if a tragic and slightly pathetic one.

There are good points to the movie, but the fact that they are present in such a chaotic caricature of the true story just makes it all the more painful. It is upsetting to me that it started out rather well but became unbearable towards the end. There were also some bad actors (including the bore of a snore who butchered Fuschia), particularly whoever did grave injustice to Sepulchrave, who in the book was not a tubby unprepossessing white-haired man which you would remember with a snort as 'the hooting loony'. Below I will list those that made the film bearable.

I actually liked all three Tituses. Very similar to the way I pictured them, and though young, I found them quite talented... and surprisingly, I liked Titus himself ~better~ in the movie than the book. The only difference, but still, one good thing I can say.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is utterly spectacular. I was so thrilled when I heard he was playing Steerpike; I knew only he could do the role. Sadly, he was not given the chance, as he was handed a fake, watered-down/dumbed-down version of that role.

Gertrude was the one perfect point. Not only did they not really butcher her character, but everything about her in the movie was frighteningly similar to my imaginings, indeed, beyond my wildest dreams and too a spooky degree. Every gesture, every detail, her physical appearances, her apparent moods, her facial expressions, her hair, her size, her voice, EVERYTHING was perfect.

Flay, Christopher Lee as we know him, was of course brilliant. Not quite how I would have imagined Flay looking, but he acted Flay so well that I didn't really care, and he is the right height for it. Just beautiful.

I suppose on the whole I would still recommend the movie for these fine performances... but please, DON'T just say to yourself "I'll watch the movie first." It's not worth it. A good number of the 'actors' are putrid, and the sights and sounds of this miniseries will ruin all the lovely mental images Mervyn Peake could have created in your mind. Better to have them established ~before~ you see it, so that afterwards, you can more easily pick and choose as you like.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Real World - Gormenghast

8/10
Author: Jan Kjellin from Falun, Sweden
20 September 2002

I've read Mervyn Peake's books over and over again. To me, the story of Titus Groan, 77'th earl of Gormenghast, is one that can actually compete with Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings".

So what do I think about the mini series? Well, obviously no one would dare do what Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema did with the aforementioned movie, so I guess a four part mini series was the next best thing. (Although I would have loved to see this in a cinema!) Good actors and an excitingly stylistic production makes this a worthwhile four hours. Some has been left out, of course, but there's still plenty of material left to build the characters of the story.

This is not a fantasy movie. It has no or few classic fantasy elements at all in it. I would rather see it as a fantastic movie, where the laws of the "normal" world aren't broken - just a little bent out of shape...

Gormenghast will provide a glimpse into our own world, and even though it's not always pretty, it's always done in beautiful colors.

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

brilliant steerpike in fantastic mad world

10/10
Author: eb_redbaron from vienna, austria
17 April 2002

i happened to see the last episode of gormenghast in the middle of the night one day and was instantly intrigued. although i had no idea what was going on i was glued to my seat by the surreal sets and costumes and, above all, by the intense and brilliant acting!

i bought the books and dvd at once and soon realized the difference. the books are beautifully written and have a life of their own that does indeed compare to tolkiens middle earth. but the tv-series is marvelous. i think the whole story is very close to the books and all the actors are amazing.

jonathan rhys meyers as steerpike is the main focus of attention, every time hes onscreen the whole story gets incredibly dynamic and his villain is the most attractive person ive seen in a film in a long time. his characters brilliance, but also suffering, are the main themes of the film, since titus doesnt really seem convincing. most of the other characters are rather one dimensional, but thats intended, since no one wants to change in gormenghast except steerpike. even fuchsia, who is so miserable cant overcome her prejudices in the end.

whats strange in the film is that, given rhys meyers steerpikes attraction and intelligence and force, still everybody is unwilling to accept his qualities. he stays forever the kitchen boy, even when the whole castle couldnt do without him anymore. his despair and ultimate madness are the result of that constant rejection.

the books especially, but also the film, are ultimately a description of a world without love, compassion or warmth. everyone is doomed to remain unhappy within the strict hierarchy and no talents whatsoever will elevate you.

steerpike in the books is primarily a monster and sadistic murderer, whose motive is simply to gain power. why mervyn peake wrote him as the one to propel the whole story forward and at the same time didnt make him into a positive figure, i dont understand. i know its criticising the british monarchy, but thats what makes the books so depressing, in my opinion.

in the film steerpike is the central character, hes extremely good looking and has plenty of emotions, mostly rage and the supressing of rage, (contrary to the books i think, where hes always cold). still the ending is inevitable, because in gormenghasts world no one is allowed to succeed.

the film itself is beautifully shot, the music is great, the sets a little disappointing, but the costumes are truly beautiful. what does outshine most other tv-productions however, is the brilliant acting from the entire cast, but mainly rhys meyers powerful performance.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Travesty with no redeeming qualities

1/10
Author: steven-222 from Berkeley, CA, USA
3 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I read Mervyn Peake's novels as a boy, and just reread them this summer (the centenary year of the author's birth). They're truly unique, and at its best Peake's writing is close to miraculous, able to capture sensations and states of mind I would never have imagined another human being had experienced, much less found ways to set down in words.

So yes, I'm a fan of the books.

And while I didn't expect a great deal from this TV version, I was surprised at just how awful it is. If the filmmakers had deliberately set out to create a total travesty, they could hardly have done a more thorough job. Production design, dialogue, acting, casting, costumes—everything is a horrible mishmash. This is like a cruel parody of Mervyn Peake's vision.

At the heart of the books is Steerpike, whose villainous plots drive the story; and at the heart of this misbegotten movie is a truly terrible performance by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He's badly miscast as Steerpike to start, and even for the watered-down, prettied-up Steerpike given us by this movie, his meager talents are far too inadequate. He seems to think he's playing a naughty Peter Pan, not one of the most complex and compelling villains since Macbeth.

Nothing in this movie captures the mesmerizing language, byzantine plotting, grotesque characters, or haunting Gothic atmosphere of the Gormenghast books. Even the look and lay-out of the castle, so unforgettably described by Peake, is missing, and instead we see some second-rate designer's colorful world of whimsy. Gormenghast has been recycled as a generic children's fantasy flick, and that's a shame.

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10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

amazingly interesting.

9/10
Author: broken_dreamz
26 August 2002

Gormenghast...once i heard the title of the mini-series, i wanted to laugh. what an awful name! at first glance, it appeared to be terribly confusing, what with the birth of the new heir, the kitchens, Steerpike, his manipulative ways...

But after watching it, i have to admit the show is great. Jonathan Rhys Meyers gives a stunning performance as the shewrd, cunning kitchen boy Steerpike, who slowly worms his way to the top by murdering anyone who gets in his way.

for me, the most impressive scene had to be in the last episode, when he nearly gets killed by the twin sisters Cora and Clarice, who sets up a trap for him. the rage and horror mixed on his face, together with the obvious sense of relief he displays is amazing. and when he did his little 'insane dance' around the skeletons of the twins - now that was scary. there was a general atmosphere of madness that somehow managed to be conveyed, without the usual cliches that get in the way. just pure, sheer madness.

it's a wonderful mini-series. too bad there isn't a sequel to it. and check out the set designs, they give Gormenghast a very realistic feel.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Very entertaining, but it isn't 'Gormenghast'

5/10
Author: Jeffrey D. Sarver (basilseal1) from Sarasota, Florida
27 June 2001

I enjoyed part one of 'Gormenghast' this evening. But it has little more than the names of the characters from the book to remind me what it is. Only Swelter and the Prunesquallors, and with a great deal of tolerance, Lady Gertrude, are true to the characters in Peake's books The sets are beautiful, the music, very technicolour Richard Rodney Bennett stuff ala 'Nicholas and Alexandra' with some interesting old instruments and boy sopranos thrown in. The acting is fine, the script amazingly communicative for such an ambitious condensation of the huge books. But SO much is missing. Why, with all their resources and government funding couldn't the BBC have done the entire story, as they used to do with Dickens, instead of this mod-pop, easy-to-digest, action-packed soap opera with crowns and trained animals? The Tibetan overtones are interesting but an indulgence by the production team that pushes the envelope of Peake's intentions, regardless of the fact of his birth and boyhood in China. The twins are totally beyond the pale, but funny to watch. 'Gormenghast', however, is NOT a funny story, nor is it cute and twee. I mean, Fuchsia, was not in the least beautiful or charming. I could go on but it's not worth it really.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Interesting, sumptuous adaptation.

Author: Piotr Dubiel (Piotr-9) from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
20 February 2000

I was at first apprehensive to see what were some of my favourite books ever written being made into a film. Upon reading the books, I had always dreamt of adapting this work to the screen myself... though not everything was quite the way I envisioned it, the BBC has done an exemplary job in casting and set design, recreating the askew world of Gormenghast in a fashion that Mervyn Peake himself would have most probably been proud of.

Though the time limitations make for a very accelerated version of the slow, brooding books, and a few liberties are taken with the plot, Gormenghast is a very competent, excellently acted gothic fantasy drama. Though a little too bright & colourful and betraying the BBC's penchant for filmed stage dramas (it seems very much like a play), Gormenghast the miniseries does the brilliant books justice as much as any film could.

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