|Index||5 reviews in total|
A warning before I begin: You may not like this production if you don't
like drama. Personally I think that the combination of grim severity
and comical wit is perfect. But this is (by and large) a serious film.
If you are looking to laugh, applaud, and (maybe) shed a tear or two
then this is definitely for you. If you don't like Shakespeare, or are
just looking for mindless entertainment, pass it over
I promise not to
judge too harshly.
The directors and producers truly captured the spirit of the play. Jeremy Irons's anguished and troubled Henry IV is perfectly on par. He allows you to peak into the past and see the man Henry was. Likewise, Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Prince Hal is simply beautiful. His Hal is charismatic, calculating, inspiringa complex character who you simultaneously love and abhor, applaud and condemn. Hiddleston gives, by far, the most compelling rendition that I have ever seen.
But you could not have Hiddleston's Hal without Simon Russell Beale's Falstaff; they are the perfect pairing. They capture the essence of the tragic/comic relationship that exists between Hal and Falstaff. You can't help but despise Falstaff. Yet the love that he shows for Hal makes him endearing and human. Beale's complex performance leaves you questioning whether you should like or loath his character, which is exactly as it should be.
The costumes are appropriate and the attention to detail is commendable. You won't see busty women prancing about in unrealistic clothing, like you do in some horrid productions. The battle scenes are refreshing; there are no swarms of digitalized soldiers, but actors giving true performances. The music is a bit over-dramatic at times; but other than that, it is a great production.
Would recommend to anyone who likes Shakespeare. If you are familiar with his comedies, but have not seen the more serious plays, the combination of wit and tragedy makes this the perfect introduction.
I recently watched Henry IV part 1 in this series and was left a little
cold by it as I didn't feel that it delivered a great deal to be in
terms of meaning and edge and that, while the production values were
high and the story was engaging, I felt that the language wasn't as
gripping as Shakespeare can be and also that subtext and meaning was
not brought out as it should have been. Although not a total success
part 2 really does deliver quite a lot and the themes within the
material came over more clearly to me. The play sees Prince Hal
maturing into the king we know from Henry V while at the same time his
father struggles with the manner in which his reign came to be and the
fallout from it. Meanwhile Falstaff becomes more of a tragic figure
whose only hope is that his lies and supposed connections will somehow
These character-focused things continue against the backdrop of fallout from the challenge to Henry IV from Wales and it makes for a busy and interesting story which is delivered well in under two hours. Although it spends a lot of time with characters and places that I thought of as "side issues" in part 1, here they are given more meaning developing character but also shedding light on other plots by virtue of their relation to them. I enjoyed seeing Hal change as a character through the film and mature into something much more regal and suitable for the throne harsh in some ways but ultimately appearing to act for the greater good. Likewise Falstaff was much more to me than he had been before. From the very start he is more sombre and less of a clown feeling his age, less confident in his wit and also suffering from ill health. He contrasts very well with the change in Hal and, although tragic, the end of the film makes his fate clear and clearly deserved in the bigger picture.
Originally struggling to forget his role in The Avengers, I liked Hiddleston a lot here, he had a confidence and understanding of his character that perhaps he was not allowed in the tone of the first film. Likewise Irons does better as there is more meat to get his teeth into; of course Beale benefits the same as Falstaff. The supporting cast features quite a few famous faces giving solid supporting performances (Glen, Palmer, Walters etc) and it feels strong in quality without feeling starry for the sake of it.
Having not been overly impressed by the previous two films in the Hollow Crown series, Henry IV part 2 really worked for me; it keeps the same serious tone throughout but it brings more out of the words and characters than I got out of the previous films. The material is more engaging in my opinion, but the version seems to do more with it as well. I am now looking forward to the final part of this series partly because it will be the first time I have seen Henry V in the context of the previous three plays and not just as a standalone piece.
Henry IV, Part 2 like the first part is a play named after king who
really does not have the title role. Although Jeremy Irons has bigger
role here than he did in Part 1.
The dramatisation deals with the aftermath from the first play with Hotspur's father Northumberland (Alun Armstrong) gathering the rebels to avenge his son's death and take on the ill Henry IV now deep in regret in the manner of his own taking of the throne and the fallout from it. However wily Westmoreland entices the rebel leaders into a truce and then promptly arrests them and have them all quickly executed.
Prince Hal is maturing into a man ready to ascend to the throne as his father struggles with his health. Both reconcile and like the older Don Corleone in The Godfather gives his son advice as to how best to deal with his power and rivals, sowing the seeds of taking France and thus tightening his grip on his own crown.
In the tavern Falstaff becomes more desperate and tragic with ill health fending off his pursuers and hoping for some kind of pay off. When Hal is crowned as Henry V, he sternly rejects Falstaff when he begs for acknowledgement from his old drinking buddy during the coronation procession. Like a child grown up Henry V puts away foolish things, he is readying for new battles.
Falstaff is left shattered and humiliated. A lovelorn figure, a man with little to be boastful about.
Again director Richard Eyre has used location to open up the play, the tavern sequences certainly bring out the low life atmosphere of London. Despite the text being cut down it just felt less busy. You actually did feel if this could had been combined with Part 1 and the story told in one play.
It again emphasises that these plays were of Shakespeare's times. Entertainment for the evening four hours or more and Part 2 to follow the next day. To the modern viewer it halts the flow of the story. Too much fat on the side.
This follow up to HENRY IV PART 1 is a little better, purely because
there's more incident here. Falstaff plays a more important role in the
political turmoil surrounding his royal leaders, and as a whole there's
more gravitas and import than we found in the first part.
The production values remain strong, and Tom Hiddleston remains the best thing in it in a transitionary role, part transformed into his later leading man in HENRY V. Thankfully, Jeremy Irons gets more screen time, and shares at least one bravura moment with Hiddleston. Still, it's fair to say that the production is fumbled in places, with Falstaff remaining impenetrable and the two-part production as a whole a far cry from the excellence that was RICHARD II.
It's hard to know where to start when things have gone this badly
wrong. It is sad that a first class performance by Jeremy Irons as the
king should be mired in this travesty. First, Mr Eyre doesn't
understand the play and falls into the Falstaff trap, mistaking the
tavern characters' affection for Falstaff for the writer's. A sorely
miscast Simon Russell Beale mumbles his lines through a mass of facial
hair and the ONLY way to make out what he is saying is by switching on
the subtitles. That alone is a disaster for which the director and the
producers must be held responsible. What were they thinking? I suspect
their familiarity with the lines tricked them into not noticing that
Shakespeare's words had disappeared into a black hole of
Other members of the cast are so wooden you could chop them down. Joe Armstrong as Hotspur just gabbles angrily. His wife, Michele Dockery, sounds like she's sight reading. Julie Walters and Maxine Peake are too busy trying to replace the words with acting to make out more than a couple of words at a time. Richard Eyre's use of sentimental music to tell us when it's SAD just made me LAUGH.
The brilliant performance of Jeremy Irons and Shakespeare hiding in the subtitles made it bearable at times but it was on the whole a massive artistic failure. All of this is down to the director and producers. The cast is packed with talent, misdirected in this instance. Sir Richard Eyre shares a writer's credit alongside Shakespeare (I'm not kidding) so this might tell us something about why this went so wrong. See Rupert Goold's brilliant film of Richard II (the first part of the mini-series) and compare. That's the way to do it, with clarity, nuance and a profound understanding of the play.
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