Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TV Review: The Hollow Crown: Henry VI Part 2 (2016)

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses: Henry VI Part 2 (2016) directed by Dominic Cooke based on Shakespeare's plays

For the previous Hollow Crown series, see my reviews of Richard IIHenry IV Part 1 and Part 2, and Henry V. For the previous episode in the Wars of the Roses series, see Henry VI Part 1.

The Wars of the Roses rages on as King Henry VI is assailed by the house of York with their claims as rightful ruler. Henry is too mild and pious to hold the crown on his own. His scheming wife Margaret is certainly more aggressive if not entirely faithful. They have a son, Edward, whom Henry disinherits in a moment of weakness while negotiating with the Duke of York. There are plenty of betrayals among the Yorks as well. The plot requires a bit of attention.

For a Shakespeare play, this production includes a lot of violence and bloody gore. There's no stagey-ness or skimping on the battle scenes. They show the full horror of battle. Coughing up blood happens a lot; many throats are slit. Heads are cut off and piked on the walls of cities (a common practice in dealing with traitors back then). So squeamish viewers need to beware.

The story moves along at a rapid pace, almost to the detriment of the storytelling. Loyalties reverse many times throughout the show, sometimes happening a bit too quickly to be believable. The story takes place over 15 or 16 years. Things slow down at the end as the focus shifts to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, (played well by Benedict Cumberbatch) who does the dirty work needed to ensure his brother, Edward IV, remains King of England. Richard will wind up as Richard III, the subject of the final movie in this series. The other actors do a good job as well. The story just looks stripped down to the bare bones.

This movie is better as a connective tissue between Part 1 and Richard III, I'm not sure that it can stand on its own as a story. Certainly it was produced as part of a trilogy, and Henry VI was originally three separate plays, so a lot of material was condensed to make it to the finale.

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