The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (Blu-ray)

2012’s “The Hollow Crown” was equal components an ambitious and surprising production. Presented in 4 parts, it adapted “Richard II”, “Henry IV: Parts 1 and two”, and “Henry V” for a contemporary audience abridging the story for a more function-length presentation and updating dialogue for a a lot more contemporary ear, without betraying the heart of Shakespeare’s original prose. The project starred an impressive cast of British actors, even though Tom Hiddleston Prince Hal and Jeremy Irons’ Henry IV stood out in the realm of spellbinding. Four years later, the second Hollow Crown cycle picks up with Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” prior to naturally progressing towards a conclusion with “Richard III”. “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” is brought to life by the same behind-the-scenes team, but with an updated cast and in a planet where “Game of Thrones” has turn out to be an HBO hit, allowing Ben Powers and Dominic Cooke to ever so slightly draw on theme, given the George R.R. Martin series is loosely based on the overarching conflict of the Lancasters and the Yorks.

In several methods, “Henry VI” echoes the open of the “Hollow Crown” saga inasmuch as the young king in this installment, portrayed with nuance and a nervous power by Tom Sturridge is as inexperienced and ineffective a leader as Richard II. Even so, the story ends most comparisons there as “Henry VI” is frequently an unknowing audience to his personal story, one that is a labrythine expedition into loved ones squabbles, political machinations, and old-fashioned revenge. I will be forthright in admitting, my understanding of Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” is primarily nil, but even with no real point of comparison, the four-hour adaptation (two hours for portion one, and two hours for element two and three) feels rushed and heavily abridged, mainly on the front finish. The 1st element is extremely heavy handed on exposition and set-up for a decidedly bloody and far more captivating second-half. To paint a broad picture: the king’s household and rivals all have their eye on his throne, alliances are formed and broken, ad nauseum, just before the genuine players emerge from the shadows.

The adaptation of Shakespeare’s performs have all the hallmarks of the bard’s obsessions with family members and energy, but the influence of Game of Thrones, in certain the hushed candlelit machinations permeate the production and its only during some standout soliloquies (in particular Henry VI’s breakdown on the battlefield in the second element of the feature) that we are are reminded of the authorship. That said, the modern day influence on the story does enable for some exciting moments and just as factors are starting to wain at the finish of the first portion, a bloody siege opens the second and with it comes one particular of the program’s shining gems: Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III. Cumberbatch provides a restrained functionality in “Henry VI: Components 2 and three” prior to commanding the screen in his titular outing. It is both a dialogue wealthy efficiency and one particular of skillful physical presence, with Richard’s physical ailment present on screen but never in an exaggerated style.

I cannot with a straight face make an argument that Benedict Cumberbatch is intended to be a massive promoting point for this production, featured prominently on the cover and getting top billing, he’s a large catch for the producers. Nevertheless, for my money Sophie Okonedo’s functionality as Queen Margaret is even more captivating and a breath of fresh air. Okonedo is an actress of colour, playing the function of white Frenchwoman. At the end of the day, Okonedo’s overall performance is an epic journey of a character who initially appears to be a background player that swiftly and soundly demonstrates she is a lot more ferocious and fearless in her vision than any man in the play Okonedo holds her own in each and every scene she’s provided dialogue of significance and frequently comes out dominating the production. If there is a solitary optimistic from the “Game of Thrones” influence on Shakespeare’s function here, it really is in letting Okonedo’s Queen Margaret be a robust female character with out ever getting to draw particular interest to gender.

At nearly six and a half hours “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” is not a mild commitment. While the “Richard III” adaptation could honestly stand on its personal, the “Henry VI” adaptation is a good, but not general excellent production. It suffers from a very slow start off and spotty story that is challenging to comply with on an initial viewing. The second half of the story has a lot more breathing room with action sequences breaking up the flow and Henry VI’s battlefield breakdown producing a vie for the crown (no pun intended) of very best scene in the complete series. Still, even 4 years removed from the original “Hollow Crown” I miss the intimacy and more restrained production of the lengthier very first cycle. The “Game of Thrones” influence is felt here and for all the good factors it does, most importantly, helping to drawn in an audience who might have otherwise bypassed it, I was left wanting far more from the first portion of this tale.


The 1.78:1 1080p transfer is a stunning upgrade from the original “Hollow Crown” series of just a handful of years ago. The HD upgrade allows detail to pop from the screen and medieval color palette of grays, greens, and more royal colors depending on the setting are all faithfully reproduced. There are some interior shots that appear just as well pristine and a slight drop in detail gives indication of DNR, which does cheapen the look of the production ever so slightly. Contrast levels are a small on the intense side with darker scenes, each in dim corridors and smoky towns beneath siege of moonlight, but not to a level exactly where vital action is obscured from view.


The English DTS-HD Master Audio five.1 track is a tad on the quiet side, most apparent throughout “Henry VI: Component 1”. A clear track by way of and by way of, there are some indicators of life when the story enters territory involving battles and the surrounds add some atmosphere although dialogue remains focused front-and-center with a wealthy warmth that accentuates the classic work of Shakespeare. General, it’s a well-balanced track for the most portion, with only a few instances of hushed dialogue getting followed by a louder than desired musical cue or impact. English SDH subtitles are included, despite the fact that due to the supply material, it is a shame correct subtitles weren’t included as well.


Bonus characteristics consist of a very short behind-the-scenes featurette, “The Generating of the Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” as effectively as five-minutes of deleted scenes from both installments of “Henry VI.”


“The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses” might quite properly surpass its predecessor in terms of production worth and most captivating performances it does fail, just ever so slightly, to meet the bar in terms of all round cohesion and dramatic interest. In spite of a lengthy runtime, the production feels abridged, even when I cannot tell you what’s missing and a shaky 1st act may possibly test the patience of numerous viewers. The second and third acts of the general production although undoubtedly live up to the top quality of the original and are at instances heartstopping in their dramatic influence. The technical production of this release is a accurate treat, not perfect, but eye catching (and ear catching) sufficient that I hope the original “Hollow Crown” gets an HD re-release. Advised.

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