Monday, January 17, 2011
To The Ends of the Earth: A Review
To be perfectly honest, I only watched this because it was one of Benedict Cumberbatch's first staring roles. Of course when I was scouring the internet for the videos I couldn't find it. Today on Hulu I see they have the entire series uploaded. You know, now that I've purchased it. I also marched through the snow to go to the post office today only to stand in front of the locked door and suddenly remember it's a holiday. This happens to me.
At any rate, To The Ends of the Earth is the story of Edmund Talbot, a young man travelling to Australia to take up a governmental position secured for him by his influential godfather. Along the way he begins to understand that privilege and influence also comes with responsibility. The story takes its form from Edmund's journal that he keeps to give to his godfather at the end of the journey.
On the long voyage he interacts with the crew, and begins to understand the politics that run through the ship. He also makes the acquaintance of a parson, a governess, a family that is actually an artist and his two mistresses, and a radical free thinker. All of the characters have fears and secrets that are touched on during this voyage and Edmund must confront his own ways of thinking about life and society. He even falls in love when their ship meets with another after a storm.
Though To The Ends of the Earth had a lot of potential it falls sadly short. Structurally the episodes are messy, the transition from the first to the second episode is particularly poor. Certain events seem to occur randomly- especially in the final episode, and without much meaning resulting. Perhaps it is because they tried to cram an entire trilogy into three ninety minute episodes. Though Cumberbatch and the rest of the cast add dimension to their characters, a satisfying conclusion is never reached and many plot lines are left somewhat flapping in the breeze.
The romance plot is rather uncomfortable as well. Instead of coming across as sweet, it comes across as slightly creepy and possibly the symptom of head injury. At one point it seems that this is going to be another point of learning and maturation for Edmund, but it falls somewhat flat and insists upon a love-at-first-sight story with an inexplicable ending.
If you are a hardcore Cumberbatch fan you may enjoy watching it to chart the progression of his work (and, as some will no doubt watch it for, a love scene and a showering scene where there is a rather full on shot of his butt). Still, I can't say that it is a series I will watch again or recommend. For an excellent historical film featuring Cumberbatch, I would suggest Amazing Grace, though not without a few structural difficulties, it is engaging and inspiring and has cast with well known, respected, and talented actors.