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Ken Follett's World Without End(TV) (2012)
The English town of Kingsbridge works to survive as the King leads the nation into the Hundred Years' War with France while Europe deals with the outbreak of the Black Death.
For more about Ken Follett's World Without End and the Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray release, see Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 18, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Chaplin, Charlotte Riley, Nora von Waldstätten, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Rupert Evans, Tom Weston-Jones
» See full cast & crew
Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray Review
Apparently Ken Follett isn't aware of 2012 Mayan prophecy.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 18, 2012
Author Ken Follett is known for his massive novels and painstaking historical recreations. His Pillars of the Earth was a runaway success and, later, a well-received miniseries. The highly anticipated follow-up, World Without End, wasn't met with quite the same enthusiasm, and the subsequent miniseries also suffers under a rather heavy burden of soap opera complexities that weave together involved characters but no real single, driving plot. In World Without End, viewers will find a world shaped by shared struggles and similar backgrounds -- many of them kin to the characters from Pillars and, indeed, living in the same fictional town of Kingsbridge -- both together yielding interconnected characters whose story paths cross in various sordid ways under the heavy burden war, taxation, scandal, politics, and plague. It's a landscape dotted by fascinating characters but one that lacks a focus beyond a broad recreation of history influenced by the workings of a detailed imagination. Fans of such material will love World Without End, but audiences looking for something a bit more streamlined will be left waiting for the end that isn't promised in the title but that does indeed come when the minutes tick to zero.
It's a time of looming darkness across Europe. England has just exited from a bloody civil war in which King Edward II was overthrown by none other than his French wife, Queen Isabella (Aure Atika). She's placed her son Edward III (Blake Ritson) on the throne, though she remains the true political power over the land, imposing taxes for a coming war with France that the people cannot afford, particularly not the people of Kingsbridge, a small town with a wide array of individuals with shady motives, hardened hearts, closed minds, sinful desires, and treacherous actions to perform. Brothers Ralph and Merthin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Tom Weston-Jones) return home from an afternoon of swordplay with a wounded knight named Thomas Langley (Ben Chaplin) who desires to enter the priory. He harbors a secret the queen is determined to keep buried at all costs, and the town will suffer under her rule as a result. The conniving Roland (Peter Firth) supplies the queen with a Kingsbridge "enemies list" and is promoted to Earl of Shiring for his allegiance. Petranilla (Cynthia Nixon), a scheming Kingsbridge resident, is determined to see her son Godwyn (Rupert Evans) attend Oxford and, later, ascend to the rank of Prior by any means necessary. Caris (Charlotte Riley) works alongside Mattie Wise (Indira Varma), an herbal healer who shuns old techniques and embraces cutting-edge medical theories otherwise renounced by the community, leading to suspicions the she dabbles in witchcraft. Gwenda (Nora von Waldstätten) is sold by her father into arranged marriage and prostitution from which she escapes and thereafter begins a relationship with Wulfric (Tom Cullen). With taxes on the rise, war looming, evil around every corner, and a terrible plague about to decimate the land, the town of Kingsbridge stands as a hotbed of activity and intrigue even in the midst of a time of great regional and continental upheaval.
World Without End breaks down into two simple pieces at its core: story details and technical craftsmanship. The latter certainly does not disappoint in any regard. This is prime-time stuff, a show that immediately grabs its audience's attention if for no other reason than the sense of authenticity that oozes from it. Historical accuracy down to the last pebble and patch of cloth seems faultless; the show just feels right the moment it appears on the screen, and even if it's not, the soap opera aspects at least distract from any inconsistencies that only well-versed period historians will find. Whether the seeming authenticity translates to the characters is another matter altogether. They look and act the parts, but the show's excess use of the profane seems a bit much, anachronistic, perhaps, and probably aiming to capitalize on the Spartacus effect to draw in audiences with a series that's not as physically brutal, verbally crude, or sexually active but at least in the same ballpark. It's an effective tool for conveying the emotions and moments to modern audiences saturated in such dialogue across the popular culture landscape. Historically correct or not, it makes the series easier to follow but at the same time has the unintentional consequence of distracting from the drama, emotions, and actions when some more modern lingo -- and the overuse of it -- slips into the script and out of character mouths.
That ties back into story details which are deliciously scandalous and sordid, centered around dirty dealings, shady politics, sex, and stubbornness. It's a fascinating watch if for no other reason than to see a world so similar to this in many ways but at the same time drastically different in others. It proves the old Bon Jovi adage that says "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Bleeding out patients and stuffing their wounds with dung may thankfully be a thing of an archaic past (how many lives have been lost stubbornness and stupidity throughout history? Hindsight's 20/20 but some of this stuff is bad), but the power plays and underhanded dealings ring all too familiar. There's a scandal for darn near everyone in World Without End; characters engage in rape, incest, murder, greed, treachery, forced marriages, and abuse of the throne and the cloth both. Political and religious opponents are eliminated in public, a mole is a sign of witchcraft, sex in the church confessional is a bit more commonplace than one might imagine, and the people have precious little opportunity for redress of grievances. The series often has the feel not of a linear story but rather how many connected and unsavory bits Follett can cram into the narrative. It makes for deliciously dirty storytelling, but the lack of real, hard-hitting substance across a broader plot often leaves the series feeling like cheap daytime television rather than rich historical drama.
Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray, Video Quality
World Without End debuts on Blu-ray with a striking high definition transfer that's virtually flawless from beginning to end. Viewers will enjoy the image's exceptional detail and vibrant color from the outset; striking natural greens, brilliant red and blue clothes, breathtakingly realistic chain mail, and the finest clothing nuances define the series' opening transfer-of-power scene on the battlefield. Similar elements remain throughout. Tattered clothes and regal garb alike are displayed with the sort of pinpoint precision seen only in the absolute finest Blu-ray titles. Facial details are gorgeously natural, while the medieval era stonework, woods, hay, pebbles, dung, and other scattered elements appear so finely detailed audiences could practically reach out and touch them. The image presents fine natural depth, striking clarity, and constant sharpness. Colors are perfectly balanced, from the most brilliant shades to the filthiest worn down whites. Skin tones are true, and black levels pure. The image does suffer from slightly problematic low-light color transitions, particularly across shadowy faces, but such minor anomalies don't seem worthy of knocking the score half a point. This is nothing short of a brilliant transfer that exceeds all expectations.
Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray, Audio Quality
World Without End features a very convincing and accurate DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Listeners are treated to an immersive and sonically rich presentation from the outset. The deepest lows, the breeziest highs, and everything in between play with faultless clarity and attention to detail. Every musical note seems in order, presented with fine front end space and smooth surround support elements. The track makes fine use of the entire stage in crafting believable ambiance around Kingsbridge; the place springs to life with a variety of sounds that all mesh together into a delightful harmony of centuries-old life recreated in the modern recording studio. From the heaviest horse footfalls to the slightest creaks and chatter, the busier scenes offer brilliant atmospherics. Even quieter scenes often incorporate gentle breezes or other subtle elements to bring the world to seamless life. Rain nicely drenches the stage, clanking swords and other battle elements play naturally, a panicked structural collapse pulls the listening audience into the chaos, and other, heavier elements also play aggressively but not at the expense of clarity. The track also features the expectedly faultless, center-focused dialogue. One can't ask for much more than what Sony has offered here; it's miniseries audio perfection.
Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
World Without End contains only one supplement. The Making of 'Ken Follett's World Without End' (HD, 24:22) examines the project's history, its scope, the timeframe, the changes between the novel and the shooting script, character arcs, actor attributes, Michael Caton-Jones' direction, shooting locations and set construction, costumes, and making the bridge collapse scene.
Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
World Without End has its moments, but it ultimately feels a bit hollow even as characters are many, diverse, and richly developed. The series seems to aim for shaping a world rather than telling a story. For as complete and authentic as it feels, the series never quite makes its audience a part of the environment; there's always a sense of detachment looming over every scene, not the open arms of historical envelopment. The series does gain steam as characters are rounded into form and their ploys set in motion, but audiences unfamiliar with the book will find it takes a few episodes to really settle into the story, figure out the relationships, and iron out the arcs. Is it a rewarding experience? In a way, yes. The characters are sufficiently interesting and the interconnectedness makes for compelling drama, but the lack of a more focused narrative keeps the show from finding another level of success. Sony's Blu-ray release of World Without End features dazzling video and audio. Only one supplement is included. Follett fans can buy with confidence, but most would be best served with a rental or reading the book first.
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Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Ken Follett's World Without End Blu-ray - October 24, 2012
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release Ken Follett's World Without End as a two-disc Blu-ray set. Best-selling Welsh author Ken Follett has sold more than 130 million copies of his books worldwide. Street date is December ...
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