The story of Henry VIII is well known, but this is not the Henry your history teachers told you about. This Henry is a slim, energetic man. There are only hints in regard to his famous lust for food. His appetites for women are not so subtly portrayed. The series follows Henry’s alliances and break-ups with
Let’s talk about the cast. At first I must say I completely hated Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry. I found him to be mousy and not at all a strong character. Then after a couple of episodes something happened. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but he grew so well into the part that before long I honestly couldn’t think of anyone better. I believe it was his subtle mannerisms more than anything else. Looking back, I think that his performance improved dramatically by the third episode. He appeared far more secure, and when he spoke he began to carry the voice of authority one has come to expect in a king. The star of the series, however, is hands down Sam Neill as the Cardinal. This must have been a difficult character to bring life to. He is so multidimensional. He is at times an absolute villain, while at others he completely sells the repentant and vulnerable wretch. He commands your attention with every moment he takes the screen. Natalie Dormer is a relative newcomer, and she has wonderful skills. When we first meet her as Anne, she appears the naïve, lazy daughter of privilege. As her seduction of Henry takes its course, she develops many faces and emotions along the way. She is extremely hard to read, and then all at once an open book. While she might not possess the beauty her character is said to inhabit, she more than makes up for it in a single stare. She acts wonderfully with her eyes, as so many of the great ones do. You will be seeing more from Dormer, I suspect, over the years. Nick Dunning is quite a surprise as Sir Thomas Boleyn. It is Sir Thomas who masterminds his daughter’s seduction of the King in order to destroy the influence of Cardinal Wolsey. His quiet yet assertive manner works perfectly for the character. The rest of the cast is also pretty strong with no obvious weak links.
The show was filmed not in
Each episode of The Tudors is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 Overall this is a very nice transfer. I found color reproduction to be stunning at times, allowing the richness of greens to take advantage of the nice locations. Black levels are often superb, allowing a fine level of detail. Still, there is a nearly fatal flaw to contend with. It was a mistake to cram three episodes on one disc. There is far too much of a compression artifact problem. Unfortunately a fine transfer and a beautiful example of cinematography are too often tainted by unforgivable levels of artifact and pixilation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is not terribly aggressive, but there are times when it opens up a bit and allows you to feel some space in the audio. It appears that horses, both galloping and whinnying, are the most common features left to the rear speakers. Dialog is very important and is handled well here. You will have no trouble hearing the sometimes flowery speech. The score comes through often grandly, but there’s not much happening out of the sub woofers.
Costume Design: I know they think it’s a good thing, but I wasn’t impressed with hearing how they weren’t really looking for accurate period dress but rather a “cool” element. Henry’s a bit too leather-bound. He’s a cross between a biker and an old rock and roller; yeah that’s right, he dresses like Meatloaf.
The Tudor’s Historical Sites: This feature is a “sightseeing tour” of many of the actual locations where the story took place. While the series was filmed in
You get free episodes of other Showtime series, but I really don’t like that. All of these shows have huge story arcs that can’t be satisfied with one episode. The obvious intent is for you to buy these other sets or at least watch the Showtime broadcasts. Either way, what will I need with an extra copy of the first episodes? You can also obtain even more free samples over the net using your 4th disc.
I think you’ll find just the right mix of entertainment and historical context to find the series compelling, if not from the start, by the third hour. When I was first offered The Tudors, I turned down the assignment. I’m not even sure why, but when offered it a second time I said, why not? I’m glad I got to see them. While I still find