Friday, September 9, 2016

TV Review: The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part 1 (2012)

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part 1 (2012) co-written and directed by Richard Eyre based on Shakespeare's play

In 2012, England hosted the Summer Olympics. The BBC decided to have a "Cultural Olypiad" which included a series of William Shakespeare's historical play. In the first series, they presented Richard IIHenry IV Part IHenry IV Part II, and Henry V.

The aging Henry IV (Jeremy Irons) is beset by hardships. Henry Hotspur, son of the Duke of Northumberland, is angry that the king would not pay a ransom for his brother-in-law. The situation grows out of hand, i.e. Hotspur and some Welsh nobles take arms in rebellion. A closer hardship is Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston) who is living a rather dissolute life with his companion Falstaff and others. They play pranks on each other. Falstaff is older, fatter, and drunker, so he usually gets the short end of the stick. Their good times end when the king summons Prince Hal to battle against the uprising. Hal and his friends do the right thing and go to war.

This movie is less colorful and less resonant than the first film, Richard II. The story here is slow. A lot of time is spent with Hal and Falstaff playing tricks and having barroom banter. Maybe out of respect for Shakespeare the movie makers didn't want to cut anything out, but I thought the story would be better served with less. Hiddleston is a charming scoundrel and makes the turn to a more serious person believable. Jeremy Irons is good as the king but he definitely is a secondary character to Prince Hal, despite the title.

The production is also very dark visually. The royal court mostly wears black and takes place in grey, underlit rooms. The pub where Hal and Falstaff hang out shows the typical medieval grunginess and poor lighting. Even the battle at the end takes place on a snow-covered battlefield, leaving a rather bleak appearance.

A good, not great, movie.

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