15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2008
"Posterity! You will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."
- John Adams 1777
HBO did a fine job with the John Adams miniseries and took great pains to get "most" of the historical details correct. It aptly showed how both John and Abigail sacrificed so much in terms of their marriage and their family to help create and foster the birth of this fine nation. There was also somewhat of a more balanced storyline perspective as to fault: Colonists versus the British monarchy. It also portrayed the great love that most of the colonists had for Britain and their former roots and the great reluctance that faced many of them.
There are seven segments in the saga which spans from 1770 until John Adams' death in 1826. Much of the storyline is based upon David McCullough's exceptional book on John Adams by the same name..
The seven segments are as follows:
Part I: Join or Die (1770 - 1774)
Part II: Independence (1774 - 1776)
Part III: Don't Tread on Me (1776 - 1781)
Part IV: Reunion (1781 - 1789)
Part V: Unite or Die (1789 - 1797)
Part VI: Unnecessary War (1797 - 1801)
Part VII: Peacefield (1801 - 1826)
What is nice about the miniseries is that it can be divided up into manageable blocks which can be watched and discussed or debated with family and friends. There are so many issues discussed which will sound very familiar even to us today. To think that it took thirty six ballots to elect Thomas Jefferson because there was a tie in the number of votes for each of two candidates is absolutely amazing. The founding fathers were willing to let elections and the nomination process take its course and they allowed a lot of discussion to take place and "compromise". I have to say that there were some historical liberties taken with the miniseries but it did not detract from the story itself or the core of the story's fabric: John and Abigail Adams' life of service to their country. In fact the entire Adams family paid a price in one way or another for this dedication and devotion without which our country may have floundered and not survived. Adams was extremely instrumental in this country's creation, nurturing and survival.
To own this series is a very wise investment especially if you are a history buff. The starkness of the surroundings and how they were portrayed in the film seemed on target to me. The background seemed to match the moods of the Adams themselves and what the characters had to go through to endure and not give up.
Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti as the Adams couple were superb. But I had to say that once again I was very impressed with Stephen Dillane and his portrayal. I appreciated his rendition of Jefferson as much as I liked Dillane in Anna Karenina (another surprise performance).
Tom Wilkinson had some fine moments as Ben Franklin and David Morse was superb as George Washington. Rufus Sewell played Alexander Hamilton and I have to say after Sewell's performance I disliked Hamilton as much as I disliked the character he played in the movie "The Holiday". His performance was also spot on as the "insensitive and manipulative" Hamilton.
What impressed me was the intimate look at the dynamics of these perilous times when our country was born. So much could have gone wrong and did; and without great sacrifices from great men; everything could have been different. Very different.
Posterity has a lot to be grateful for. You have to wonder whether we are capable of the sacrifices that so many had to make to preserve and keep our freedoms. Our forefathers were made of the right stuff as were those who fought in all of our wars to protect us back home. It just seemed to me at the conclusion of this very moving dramatization that there is a recurring theme which reminded me of a famous speech given by Winston Churchill in 1940 and the resulting poster which read: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."
John Adams (HBO Miniseries)
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
My wife and I watched this sweeping epic about the founding of my country this weekend. We found it to be fascinating, both well written and well acted. Portrayed in this mini-series is a grittier and dirtier America at its birth, less flowery, but in the end more inspirational because of it.
This story tells about a great man and the great woman who allows him to be great. It tells about how different men have different gifts, and how different men with different gifts were able to accomplish what was so improbable, that impossible seamed a more apt description.
What I found most remarkable and memorable about this saga, is the incredible sacrifice of service great men were asked to offer, and that they accepted and fulfilled the request. Duty, Duty, Duty. That great men are pulled from their preferred occupation to serve in government reluctantly, out of duty because no one else willing (or is capable to) do the job needed.
Where are those great men today?
If you are in the mood for an inspirational if lengthy bio-pic, John Addams is a good way to spend 5 Hours!
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2008
I wish that everyone would take the time to watch! What a masterpiece! Ive never seen a more realistic portrayal of the beginning of this country. I have a new appreciation for the men and women who gave so much so that we could live as free as people can. Many thanks to the writer director and actors.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Most American children grow up learning the basic facts about the American Revolution, and can provide a general description of the Revolution in broad brush strokes. Some can go a little further, recounting more detailed information of specific portions of this history that might for some reason hold a special interest to them. What most Americans cannot do, however, is retell the story in chronological sequence from beginning to end, describing the specific role of each of the major persons who had a part in that story, and the interrelationships that make the story so unique.
If you think that's what this series is about, you'd be wrong. It's not that you can't see the entire story play itself out - you most certainly will - but that you will rather learn the truth of the statement that a person can "get all the facts right, and miss the point entirely." And perhaps this is where this most outstanding of documentaries on early American history excels, the ability to tell the story of the life of John Adams, while learning the facts surrounding the American Revolution only as they surrounded John Adams himself. And perhaps, for subject matter like this, the approach is one of the best one could take.
The John Adams series lays out the seminal events of the American Revolution as John Adams viewed and participated in them (and he did participate in nearly every aspect of it throughout his long life), but allows us to do so while experiencing the context through the outstanding storytelling and precise recreation of the period. We don't only witness the events; we are made to feel that we experience them, and find ourselves being transported into a world that in so many ways differs from our own. Along the way, the series makes us face the wrongs and unpleasantries of the era, but the focus is strictly on the rise of the American nation out of the individual colonies.
The acting in this series is superb. Giamatti has perhaps given the performance of his career, and Laura Linney portrays Abigail Adams in such a sublime way that the character is strongly portrayed without overshadowing the story. Other characters (Jefferson, McHenry, Hamilton, and so on) are also excellently cast and acted, with the commanding presence of George Washington (David Morse) and the political creature Benjamin Franklin (Tom Wilkinson) played so impressively as to make one forget these are actors. To watch "John Adams" is to be introduced to each of these persons in a way never before thought possible.
The series runs for seven episodes, for a total run time of just over eight hours. The filming itself is generally excellent, with some special effects that are well executed and quite realistic. There are some issues with the choice to employ odd camera angles and some hand-held scenes, sometimes which almost threatens to produce vertigo in the viewer, and have made more than one reviewer pan the series for these approaches to filmography. Although I, too, had trouble in some of these scenes (particularly in episode two, where it seems to be most frequently used), I can easily say not to let this affect your decision to watch the series. These are just quibbles, and in some cases, we can easily argue that these techniques help create the sense of "reality" that is needed to keep us fixated on the time period. The scenes depicting Paris and the Netherlands of the period are particularly fascinating.
The music in the series is also outstanding. Anyone who watched the "Rome" series by HBO will undoubtedly recognize the similarities of the the opening title sequence, but I must say that this title sequence is one of the best I've ever seen. The music and visuals in the sequence are dramatic, lush, and even haunting.
I've often thought that, from an educational standpoint, the American Revolution was similar to the French Revolution in that the number of people, the philosophical positions, the debates, the diverse background information, and other factors are so extensive and varied that it can make learning anything beyond the basic history quite challenging. Without building context, without knowing the history and biographical information of the major personages, without knowing the history leading up to the event, trying to place the epochal events in order so they make sense and can be examined is a tremendous task. And so, we end up with what we commonly see, people who know the broad brush strokes of the narrative, but would have trouble distinguishing between Danton and Robespierre, between Hamilton and Jefferson, between The Stamp Act and The Aliens and Seditions Act, or between the National Assembly and the National Constituent Assembly. And that's not to be critical: these events involved dozens of main players, took place over a period of multiple years, and involved the clash of deeply held beliefs about the nature of governance and the role of "rights." This is not like learning a simple fact of history. But a series like this one can help overcome these issues by laying the foundation for a much deeper, ongoing exploration of early American history.
To sum it up, this is one of the most superb documentaries I've ever seen. To watch it is to learn about John Adams and the role he played in the emergence of the United States, to learn about the American Revolution itself, and to become a participant in the debates, quarrels, and yes, politics, of the event. Its a powerful and moving story that evokes deep emotions and stimulates intense thought about America's founding. It's nothing less than a tour de force.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2010
I have a bachelor's degree in history and love McCullough's works. The book was so masterful and insightful, inspired, really-- one of my favorite books of all time.
I don't disagree that the movie itself is well-made. The acting is amazing, it is very well cast, and attention to detail is great. Where the disappointment lies, for me, is in the distortion of the facts. First, I was disgusted with how Adams has been mis-represented. One of the wonderful things about the book is it shows a remarkable, yet human man whose role in history until now has been under-represented. The movie focuses mainly on his shortcomings, making those central, while leaving out the good and/or distorting it. This is not true of Abigail, who is much more accurately portrayed, but in this case it is almost as if it were done at the expense of her husband.
My husband had not read the book but watched the series with me, and he thought Adams appeared to be a jerk, to put it mildly. The relationship he had with his kids was a good one, but for theatrical purposes Adams was portrayed as a nearly abusive father with little or no compassion for his children. This simply was not so.
Not only have they distorted the goodness of the main character, but the filmmakers felt they needed to alter certain details to make the story more compelling. The story itself was so compelling I couldn't put the book down, as if I were reading a novel. In this case, the truth needed no embellishment, and sadly, some very compelling pieces of the story were left out.
I wish they had just chosen to show this wonderful story as it occurred, instead of putting a "modern" spin on it. Mainly left out were the details of John and Abigail's tremendous faith and moral rectitude, as well as John's true passion for learning and liberty (the movie portrays him only joining the American cause for liberty after he sees a man tarred and feathered by a mob, and he is enticed to give the rebellion some much-needed moderation). The frontal male nudity was unnecessary, as were a few other gruesome scenes.
This series was extremely well executed and had great potential, but was very disappointing in its representation of history and its Hollywood-ization.
One John Adams main disappointments in life was that all his sacrifice for liberty and country were somehow lost and forgotten. He felt he had been misunderstood and misrepresented, and yet his character had at all times been impeccable. If he could see this film, I can't help but think how disappointed he would be to find that the masses are deluded yet again as to the real greatness of a great man.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2008
I've only seen the first four of the series so far. I'm an average viewer, not a critic who receives advanced screenings, so I don't feel obligated to pick a movie apart and force myself to either hate it or love it. Believe me, being overly critical can make a simple and beautiful movie look awful, and a bland movie look like a masterpiece. Seeing as the vast majority of those who will be watching this are, as myself, average viewers seeking a good entertaining and heartfelt movie, not someone who dislikes it because it disagrees with their 'liberal arts' education, then this review is for them. Besides, the success of this film lies in the hands of the average viewer (the majority).
The first thing that struck me was the acting. There are parts were I was thinking to myself, "Man, Mr Adams just politically slapped everyone and did it with style." It made me feel good, all warm and fuzzy inside :-) I wanted to stomp a staff on the floor in agreement with Mr. Adams, and boo the opposition off the floor.
The second thing I noticed was how authentic the people look. It scares me and makes me grateful I don't have to live in that time. The common-folk appear to be rather grungy and I could imagine quite smelly. Some seem malnourished or just plain unhealthy.
What I like most is that this series is able to capture some of the most significant events in American history and leave me with that warm fuzzy feeling as the events unfold.
One thing that I don't like, but at the same time it's okay, is that it doesn't capture how vast of an area this covered. Each scene seemed rather staged and enclosed. But I say that's "okay" because I believe by putting it in more of a staged setting it helps tell the historical story a bit more efficiently that way.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2008
I don't get HBO at home, but I heard many positive reviews of the series on blogs (Instapundit and Volokh Conspiracy) and the radio. I pre-ordered the DVD collection, which arrived in time to enjoy with Father's Day. I certainly did enjoy the story and the acting.
John Adams is an interesting person to take us through the story of the birth of the USA. You see the run up to the revolution, the union of the colonies, the war and post-war diplomacy, and the struggle to stay united. And if your a law buff, you learn quite a bit about the basis of laws in the US, while enjoying a great production.
I give 2 stars because I'm annoyed with HBO commercialization of the DVDs. They used DVD locking features, typically used to force viewing of copyright notices, to force viewers to see a 5 minute commercial for other HBO miniseries (actually includes segments of John Adams). It's really bad that this was done at all, yet all 3 DVD's have the same required viewing before you can get to the menu.
I thought the point of HBO/cable was to pay money by the consumers to get product without commercialization. I purchase DVD's of various network series, so I can see productions without commercial interruption. Word-of-mouth was more than sufficient to get me to purchase this series. Please, don't ruin a great product with crass commercialization.
If you want to put trailers for other series on the DVD, no problem. Provide a link on the menu. Many people enjoy viewing trailers, so certainly include them. Just don't make them mandatory.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2014
It seems like a great choice, at first.
This series grabs and lures viewers in. Then it attempts to change their beliefs about the country's founding.
The viewer is led to believe the content is historically accurate. The producer claims it is based on John McCullough's biography, John Adams.
It isn't long before something doesn't seem right, raises a red flag or is simply ludicrous.
This episode centers on the conflict between the British occupation and the colonists, focusing on the Massachusetts Militia. Efforts to end Taxation Without Representation are unsuccessful. The British tighten their grip. Tensions heighten as the British attempt to exercise greater control over the colonies by imposing new taxes to pay off the substantial war debt they incurred against France.
After the Boston Massacre, Adams takes a principled stand for justice in choosing to defend the British soldiers, putting him at odds with members of the Militia, including his cousin, Samuel Adams.
The Militia is portrayed as a group of extremist rabble rousers who were too uncivilized to govern themselves. In one very disturbing scene, a ship's captain is tarred and feathered at the instigation of Samuel Adams. This scene maligns Samuel Adams and engenders sympathy for British rule over the thuggish lot. It never happened.
John Adams is presented as a reluctant member of the Militia at odds with his uncivilized cousin and remaining on the fringes of the cause until things got ugly. This is inaccurate.
The significant investment in the creation of this series, its entertainment value, popularity or mere existence may influence the viewer to assume that what is being presented is true. Yet these and other inaccuracies exist in the historical timeline and important facts, including derogatory portrayals of the Founders. It does not adhere to McCullogh's work, either. The writer seems confident that the average viewer has an obscure recollection of major historical events and less knowledge of the finer points.
If the script were subjected to a Snopes review, major portions would be classified as Urban Legend.
What's up with that?
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2008
There is much to argue with in HBO's interpretation of David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize winning masterwork - timelines, cinematography and perhaps some casting choices. However, these "technical" issues are really beside the point and do little to undermine the overall power and scope of the entire series. Whatever we think we know of these events through the idealized rote of history, McCullough's baseline brilliantly illuminates the struggle of imperfect men attempting to create "perfect" government. Throughout the series I was constantly reminded of the old admonition about the grotesque similarities between the making of sausage and legislation.
The core cast (Paul Giammati, Laura Linney, Tom Dellane) is spectacular. Linney in particular powerfully makes the case that without the emotional intelligence of Abigail Adams as counterbalance to her husband's inexhaustable volatility our history might have been very different.
John Adams is time well spent and highly recommended.
43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2011
How did David McCullough allow this? I was shocked at the liberties taken with American history in the series that were completely absent in the book. Adams is shown showing up after the Boston Massacre to cradle the dying, then he's present at Lexington. NONE of this is true! There are far too many others to mention but the one that really put me over the edge is that they have Ben Franklin stating "After all, we have a Republic, if you can keep it," to Jefferson and Adams in France, 1785 while this country was still being governed under the Articles of Confederation. Correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure that he stated this to an anonymous woman in Philadelphia, PA in September of 1787 after signing the new Constitution. If you love history skip this thing and read the book.