• Network: Starz
  • Series Premiere Date: Jul 23, 2010
  • Season #: 1
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 26 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 26
  2. Negative: 5 out of 26

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  1. Apr 29, 2011
    If this film didn't contain so much violence, sex and violent sex, it would be absolutely hilarious. The story is contrived and overwrought, the acting laughably melodramatic and the characters universally unlikeable. Rufus Sewell and Matthew McFadyen turn in admirably understated performances, but they can't redeem a story so convoluted and anachronistic it's virtually comic; ecclesiastical Days of Our Lives, or Muppets do Medieval. McFadyen's accent is inconsistent and, as far as I can tell, totally made up (is it Welsh? Is it Midlands? It's both, and more!). Eddie Redmayne is an odd-looking Jack Builder (pretty weedy for a stonemason) with an affected working class accent that really begins to grate after the first 3 hours. His mother, a witch who distributes curses pretty liberally, somehow comes off as a gutsy heroine with an exotic foreign accent. We're supposed to adore Aliena, and to understand why everybody else adores Aliena, but she's an unrealistic and crabby female character, unsustainable over the painfully extended 6 part story. With a bad temper and cheekbones that could cut glass, there's little warmth to her character. She also miraculously gives birth within about 3 minutes after the cathedral roof collapses on her, which is almost as unlikely as using a jerry-built wall manned with peasants, monks and witches to a repel an invading army. If the producers are to be believed, people in the Middle Ages generally were overly dramatic, seriously perverse, depraved, violent and sex-mad, prone to randomly slaying, strangling, impregnating and embezzling one another. This epic is saturated with rape and blood-shed, with insinuated incest for good measure. While "loving" relationships are contrasted with unloving, it's all very lusty and rather disgusting.

    Ultimately I think we're expected to sympathise in this film, but I don't. Prior Philip is presumably one of the good guys (while Bigod is plainly bad) but he's still superstitious, a peddlar of relics and of an archaic and oppressive form of religion. The church at this time was corrupt, manipulative and exploitative. Prior Philip was complicit in this, offering absolution in exchange for manual labour. It's impossible to view the weeping virgin or Saint Adolphus's skull with anything other than derision: they're tricks of the trade, smoke and mirrors, justified because they're perceived as miracles, and therefore edifying. The film ends with a sweeping shot of a modern-day cathedral, but it isn't terribly effective. Are we marvelling at the building itself? The enduring (albeit waning) influence of the church? The crucial social infrastructure of the Church of England? I gather that's what Ken Follett was aiming for in the book, and it's a worthy topic, but surely the church is (in theory) a monument to God, the one character who doesn't get a look-in in this bloody, brawly, sexy, embarrassing epic.
  2. Aug 16, 2010
    Plodding and just rubbish, has some very odd editing, McShane in a bizarre performance and Matthew (Spooks) McFaden (?) has an accent that defies logic and geography in equal measure. Gave up during Episode Two and thought well...hope the Cathedral gets built and who cares
  3. Nov 3, 2010
    Horrible horrible horrible!! Loved loved loved the book. This movie is absolutely nothing like the book. They edit out the best parts of the book, and add a bunch of crap to it. These people should be ashamed for making such a pile of crap. I bet they never even read the book
  4. Mar 14, 2013
    thought this series to be very weak, having read the book aswell. i put the responsibility on folletts inability to write realistic 3 dimensional characters.the good elements from the book, the dark potrayal of a hard time period is not conveyed to the screen. for example the whole cast look like they just had a hot shower and a good meal. if i go camping for just one night i look like rubbish compared to any one of these characters. to me the novel was quite average, but the tv series went a couple of steps in the wrong direction. either lose any attempt at medievel realism and make it a fantasy. or lose folletts childish characters and replace them with interesting downtrodden morally ambiguous people that reflect the setting Expand

Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 19
  2. Negative: 2 out of 19
  1. 80
    The abundance of material plays out naturally, in a nicely arranged script by John Pielmeier that leans heavily on the R-rated soap side of things. You'll probably get lost in the high melodrama while watching this massive chess game, where the pawns are as prominent as the bishops, the king, and the queen.
  2. The Pillars of the Earth, a six-part, eight-hour miniseries debuting Friday with a two-hour punch, delivers enough surprises to enthrall any thriller buff.
  3. 88
    Ken Follett's 1989 historical novel had a resurgence in popularity as a 2007 Book Club selection, and should finally achieve world domination with this adaptation. Who knew the Middle Ages were so soap-operatically . . . dark?