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"The Hollow Crown" Henry IV, Part 2 (2012)

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Great actors giving true performances

9/10
Author: silvermoon132 from United States
8 September 2012

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, inspiring—a 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.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Plenty going on and most of it made pretty clear through the delivery

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
15 September 2012

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 pay off.

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.

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9 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A director completely out of his depth.

Author: Ellen Carter from United Kingdom
16 July 2012

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 over-naturalistic acting.

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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