1403: Henry IV finds himself facing uprisings from the Welsh chieftain Owen Glendower and impetuous young Harry "Hotspur" Percy, son of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, angry with the ...
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1403: Henry IV finds himself facing uprisings from the Welsh chieftain Owen Glendower and impetuous young Harry "Hotspur" Percy, son of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, angry with the king for not paying Glendower ransom for his brother-in-law Mortimer. Another trial for Henry is the fact that his son, Prince Hal, keeps company with the older, reprobate drunkard Sir John Falstaff. Though the prince is his friend he is not above playing cruel jests on Falstaff, robbing him in disguise and returning his money after Falstaff has given an exaggerated account of his bravery in the hold-up. However, Hal joins his father at the wintry battle of Shrewsbury to put down Hotspur's revolt, where Hal kills Hotspur in single combat - Falstaff later claiming credit for the deed. Hotspur is routed but Henry and Hal still have to face the uprisings of Glendower and Nortumberland, now joined by the archbishop of York. Written by
More colour and passion helps the delivery but still lacks edge and meaning
The second part of this series of films continues the trend of having me watch a play I have never seen nor read for myself. I do like Shakespeare and have been down to Stratford quite a few times to see plays, but it seems the majority of this series I have not seen (with the exception of the final one, Henry V, which everyone has seen!). This story sees Henry IV older on his throne aspiring to great things overseas but struggling at home with rebellion from the Welsh and a son who is given to hanging around with drunks and reprobates. A lot of the film is spent with this son, Hal and his comic sidekick Falstaff.
I know this focus is almost certainly the focus of the original source material but I found it hard to escape the feeling that too much time was spent with these characters and their banter in the pub. In the background we have the King battling those men who helped him in his rise to power and I was much more interested in this, so time spent with Hal seems like time wasted. This relationship does help add some comedy and humanity to the telling though and in a way it did help the film in ways that I found weak in this version of Richard II. It isn't done well enough though, Hal's rise from failing son to heir apparent is not particularly engaging here and it should have been more gripping and telling.
The cast are mostly pretty good although again I think the direction saw some of the colour and passion come out of the material. Irons is a good name to have in place and what limited time he has he does do well with but the focus here is on Hiddleston. Having just seen him be Loki in The Avengers, it did take me a second or two to get on board with his casting; he does do a decent job and he does come over as human and accessible, although as I said, I didn't think he did quite as well to start to rise out of that into his future position. Beale's Falstaff is pretty good though and his energy does enliven a lot of the film. As before the supporting cast are solid with a few familiar faces in there.
Overall though, this was a good film but not one that really gripped me. That may be the play or this version of it, I'm not sure, but I did feel there were weaknesses that were shared with the first film in this BBC series. The language rarely soars and there isn't enough done to give it meaning and to give it impact in the way I expected. The story still is interesting but I couldn't shake off the impression that there was more edge and intrigue to be had that was being lost in the delivery. Good enough to make me look forward to the next film in the series, but also lacking enough to make me want to watch another version to see how it works in someone else's hands.
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