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Showing 1-10 of 555 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 672 reviews
on January 11, 2016
This mini series is powerful and an interesting peek into history with compelling characters and a great pace. It's complex enough to keep you thinking, but not too much so that it's hard to follow.

My biggest issue with the DVD itself is the menu for disc 2 has a huge spoiler right there on the screen in the form of an image that basically ruins most of the drama of episode 4 and 5 for anyone who hasn't seen it already. I was watching it with people who had not seen it before and I was so mad! Thankfully I caught 2 of the 3 of them before they saw it and they aren't allowed to see the menu until we move on.

So let this be a warning to those who may read this and haven't seen it yet! DO NOT LOOK AT THE MENU picture for disc 2. I haven't seen disc 3 or 4, but hopefully whoever put this together didn't ruin those too.

We watched this series as part of our Art History to get a feel for the time period and the building of cathedrals and while the series left out or didn't portray well the good work that monks did or any understanding of the gospel, it does show the power of superstition around relics of that period and we thought the reoccurring theme of who gets to say what "God's Will" is, portrayed exactly why the Western Roman church at this time period was fighting with the Eastern Byzantines over who gets the authority to say what God's will is!

Also, it may have been in the book, but they weren't necessary and we didn't need or want all the graphic sex scenes. It was very annoying to have to remember where they were to have my teens look away.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon March 3, 2011
7 hrs is NOT enough. An elaborate cast, set, costuming, script adaptation of Ken Follet's classic novel. Historical content, leading one to believe a British monk & mason invented Gothic church architecture, including the winged `flying' buttress. The truth is acknowledged near the end, but not before getting the viewer totally enthralled in this action/adventure/romantic epic drama. Builders, monks and royalty of the middle Ages between the years 1120 and 1170, shot on a Budapest location.

The awesome cast has been listed elsewhere, as large as the production itself. First class in every way. Truly this should become a recognized Century 21 classic, a modern "Gone With the Wind." Impressive in every detail, even having the book's author in a merchant's role, episode 7.

The series is "NOT RATED" but beware, if it makes a difference, there is full frontal nudity, violent scenes, sex, & bold language. Blood, decapitation, incest...well, enough warning. I'd still recommend this to today's 12-year-olds and beyond because of the powerful story, dramatic filming, and historical/educational dramatization. You ENTER the Middle Ages immediately after passing through the opening credits. Spellbinding. Mesmerizing. Bewitching. Stellar.
YES, SUBTITLES.

Some helpful genealogy you might want to copy/paste/print:
King Henry I: only son died at sea; Maud (birthed Henry II); nephew Stephen
Tom Builder: wife Agnes; son Alfred; daughter Martha; son Jonathan
Bartholomew: daughter Aliena (birthed Tom); son Richard
Jacques Cherbourg: son Jack via lover Ellen
Percy Hamleigh: wife Regan; son William

Eight episodes each about 53 minutes:
1 ANARCHY- Henry I dies after the king's heir is lost in the sea burning of the royal ship. Nephew Stephen wins throne. Daughter Maud & son have followers. Tom Builder looks for masonry work and crosses paths with Ellen and her son, Jack.

2 MASTER BUILDER- Kingsbridge church burns and there are political deals aplenty. Ellen is accused as witch, & possible holder of a great secret. William gets motherly incest as well as rape added to his achievements. Maud is off to safer France. Tom begins a cathedral.

3 REDEMPTION- Tom and William battle over quarry stone. Richard and Aliena seek mercy from father's hanging, and make a deal, a costly one.

4 BATTLEFIELD- William and a mystery knight battle for the Shiring Earldom. Stephen and Maud have armies that battle too. Philip looses a battle with Waleran's torturers.

5 LEGACY- Gloucester and Stephen both offered for a prisoner exchange. Then Maud and Stephen continue warring. A Kingsbridge festival is terrorized. Jack and Alfred battle over a girl and Tom must sent one packing.

6 WICHCRAFT- Maud's back in France and Stephen reigns on. Richard has a Kingsbridge return. Alfred pops the question, marriage and builder style. A HUGE building tragedy, again. Jack's seeking his French family, and work.

7 NEW BEGINNINGS- Jack studies geometry & stone building near Paris, a new Gothic style. Aliena treks to France too. Kingsbridge recovers and grows, as does the cathedral and Philip gets an offer from Waleran.

8 THE WORK OF ANGELS- 8 passing years and Jack focuses on twin tower conclusion, but the roof begins to crack. Aliena & Richard yet seek an Earldom. Waleran's yet with ambition, as is young Henry.

A satisfying ending, other than the fact that you have grown to love this series and never want it to end. Sorry for the epic length of this review but "Pillars of the Earth" is worth 6 Amazon stars--if I could award that many.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 8, 2011
This excellent screen adaptation of the best selling book by Ken Follett has all the components one would look for: intrigue, mystery, drama, lush sets and costumes, great acting, and a story that propels itself from episode to episode to a fascinating conclusion. One need not be a cathedral aficionado to be drawn into the story, but this epic story of the construction of a great gothic cathedral is a rare treat for those who have either studied, or been fascinated by, medieval cathedral construction. The conception, birth, sicknesses, and eventual triumph of the project over many decades of time present a rare glimpse into what one of these massive projects must have been like.

The story is adapted into eight episodes of about one hour each, with ongoing development of the multiple threads of storyline present in the tale. It can get a bit confusing at times: a few of the characters have enough physical semblance to confound the viewer, and the barrage of names can be a bit difficult to manage at first. Nevertheless, the director and scriptwriters have put in enough support lines to help ensure that everyone is "on track," and you can make it straight through and follow the story even if you have not read the book. As the drama of vision, betrayal, perseverance, loyalty, and ambition unfolds, the background of the cathedral project holds the centerpiece of the saga, and anchors the characters throughout the years. It should be noted that the show has some scenes of explicit violence.

Acting in the series is exceptionally good, with Matthew Macfadyen (MI-5) and Ian McShane "owning" the scenes with their terrific performances.

An easy recommend for anyone interested in the period or the subject (with the caveat of the violence that may not be appropriate for all audiences), Pillars of the Earth is worthy of title.
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on June 22, 2011
This mini-series deserves praise for fabulous actors, high production values and a script that captured the spirit of the book as well as the times very well.
While I am in agreement with several other reviewers that the symmetry of the hangings at the beginning and the end of the book are deeply missed ("The boys came early to the hanging" is the opening line of the first and last chapters of the book), the adaptation makes what appear to be carefully thought out choices to make the story "work" better for a TV audience. The movie emphasizes the political struggles of the time far more than the book and the royals end up getting far more attention as a result. A prophecy that never appears in the book, but works as a story-telling device, binds this thread. There is implied incest in one storyline in order to make characters appear even more beyond-the-pale immoral than they already are that doesn't appear in the book and is unneccessary. A ring and a letter are invented to make a story of treason stick because we can't have 100 pages of information to peice the mystery together ourselves. An improbable trial takes place toward the end of the mini-series in order to get rid of a character no one likes (he is murdered and the trial involves someone wrongly accused) and to avoid having to spend time deepening a peripheral character who, in the book, becomes the new prior after Philip is too old to carry on. They mess with how long it took to build the cathedral, etc... There are other deviations from the book's plot as well, but the point is that most of these changes work to simplify the plot enough to condense it into 8 hours.
One of the glories of the book for me is the fact that Follet uses his imagination to create an inner life for his characters that feels very modern. The medieval world can feel very alien, with it's very real fear of hell, violence very thinly under the surface of life for many people, etc... Follet takes real history about the fact that at least some of peoples' motivations don't change and gives us something that even a non-scholar can connect to. The reason the book is so incredibly long is that Follet lovingly creates this world, never leaving out a shading (one could argue that this works with how long it took to build a cathedral and how much slower the pace of life was at the time as well). The book and the mini-series are different enough that you can experience either of them first and still find the other satisfying.
My husband, who majored in medieval history in college, put the book down in disgust when he read the description of Tom and Ellen and how quickly they became a couple (something the mini-series addresses by creating a decent interval between when Tom's wife dies and these two finally getting together). He would argue that the internal dialogue that Follet creates for his characters is far too modern for the medieval setting. He actually enjoyed the mini series and is thinking of trying to overcome his problems with Follet's writing to try and read it again. I missed some of the story points from the book, but loved the fact that the miniseries had the same feel as the book and that so many of the characters jumped off the page because of the fine acting involved.
My point is, watch the mini-series AND read the book -- they are both worth it.
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on November 28, 2011
This was a remarkable surprise for me, I wasn't expecting this series to be as good as it is - I didn't see it when it initially debuted on cable. This is an EXTREMELY well-written and well-made series - absolutely top rate in every department. The story is superb, the costumes and settings are on par with any medieval epic movie ever made, and it's just a fantastic piece of work. What else would one expect from something that Ridley Scott had his hand in? On a humorous note, I did notice some of the same costumes from "Kingdom of Heaven" had been recycled for use in this mini-series and nobody seems to have mentioned that - just thought that was amusing and it told me I am far too much of a history and movie geek!

OUTSTANDING series and a bargain at twice the price - if I could give this one six or seven stars I would. If you love history, buy this series, it WILL keep you entertained and you will be impressed.
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on November 24, 2016
I really loved the book. I normally wouldn't read something so overly detailed as the book, but it really provided a wonderful and accurate glimpse into the 12the century. However, the series deviated from the book excessively. I understand that the book had a ton of internal struggle and monologue and that's indeed difficult to portray on screen. But! The deviations had nothing to do with that. For example (Spoilers), William was already so twisted and demented that we didn't need a creepy thing with his mother to sell it. In fact, the series seems to lay the blame for his wretchedness at her feet when it wasn't so much in the book. In the book, he's an insecure jealous boy overly coddled by his mother and given impossible standards to live up to at the same time. Yet the series seems to make his mother more manipulating and for some reason in a sexual way. Why? By my description, it may seem like a fine line, but when you compare the book to the show side by side, the line isn't so fine after all. They also changed Ellen's character too much, and they made people know things that they didn't know in the book. And for some reason, they combined Prior James with the prior that raised Phillip into one person, and so on with other minor characters. The cast is so good though, that I wanted to like it more. Very disappointing though.
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on April 25, 2011
I'd have paid to see this in the theater...and been happy to pay for it. The production value is very good for a TV miniseries, the acting is top notch across the board, and the story is excellent. This series runs a rather lengthy 6 or 7 hours, but even at the end you'll be wishing that it would just keep going.

This is a masterpiece of storytelling, a great period piece, wonderfully casted, and just an overall brilliant mini-series...I can't believe I didn't catch this on TV the first time around...glad I didn't though because watching it all in 3 sittings on bluray with no commercials was nice :)

I'll be watching this full through again in a few months...
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VINE VOICEon December 28, 2010
Absolutely loved this mini-series and Ian McShane as a villanous character, so very different from his charming "Lovejoy" series. Set in the 1100s when treachery reigned supreme and wars to capture kindgdoms were the norm plus the era of the Crusades, some good characters come along whose only desire is to build magnificent cathedrals and sell there wares in an open marketplace. The sets, costumes, characters, acting, etc. are all first rate. Another struggle of the forces of Good and Evil set eons ago makes for royal entertainment.
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on July 31, 2014
This was good but not as good as the book (which I didn't expect really). It got a little long/boring towards the end which I hate to admit because I usually love this type of movie.
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on April 16, 2017
A great mini series that didn't get much credit
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