HENRY VI: BEYOND THUNDERDOME [franchise "reboot"]
It's been 27 years — twenty-seven years! — since Kenneth's Branagh's last entry in the "Henry" franchise. That's right, HENRY V came out in 1989, and since then, not a single follow-up! And now he's working on a film about the mighty Thor (the Marvel superhero and not the Nordic deity).
Well, if the James Bond and Batman and Superman franchises can re-spawn every few years, and with the recent success of "re-boots" of "Star Trek", "Battlestar Galactica", and "Hawaii Five-O", it's high time that the Henry franchise be taken out of Branaugh's disinterested hands and put back into action!
Of course, just as James Bond has his complexly specific cocktails, and Star Trek has its velour, any "Henry" film must include the moving Saint Crispin's Day speech:
|"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered -- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition: And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."|
MTV News, June 17 2009:
Kenneth Branagh Taking 'Very Shakespearean' Approach to 'Thor,' Says Joe Quesada
Man, there's almost nothing we wouldn't give to be in the same room as "Thor" director Kenneth Branagh, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada -- because from the way that Quesada talks about it, the former two's grasp on the Thunder God is nothing short of electric.
In his latest Cup O' Joe column, Quesada detailed his interactions with Branagh and Feige, citing one specific meeting as "one of the highlights of my time here at Marvel" and filled with plenty of theatrics from the director and studio executive.
"It was performance art," Quesada recalled. "Kevin would give us the establishment of the shot and the situation: 'Here we are. We're in (take your pick of location). And here's Odin and he's coming up to (pick a character.)' And then Kenneth would come in and give you the color commentary. 'Odin has an air of majesty to him' and he'd act out the Odin part or the Thor part. So we sat there and literally got a three-hour one-man show from Kenneth Branagh. It was fantastic."
Describing Branagh as "very Shakespearean," Quesada said that the "Thor" director had a phenomenal grasp on the characters of Thor, Loki, Odin and the rest of the film's cast.
"He's definitely about character, which is the quintessential trait you have to have to understand the Marvel characters," he said. "It's not just big hammers and capes and things like that. It's about what makes the character tick. There's definitely a reason for Thor, a reason for him being and a very deep family relationship and story in the movie that I think is going to be very cool."
Quesada also addressed some of the fears associated with "Thor" -- namely, is an old English-speaking Norse God with an oversized hammer going to fill out theater seats in the same way that Jon Favreau's "Iron Man" did?
"I think it's going to be [a tougher sell] on the surface," he agreed. "[But we've] got plans already to get Thor's name out within a younger group of kids. I think the upcoming 'Super Hero Squad' and 'Avengers Animated' shows are going to do wonders to get that across, and then we're working on a couple of ancillary things here and there to boost the desire for kids in particular to know more about Thor and the general public as well."
XXIV: HENRY II [action]
1170, Southeastern England: Henry II, King of England, shouts in frustration: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"
Norman operative (this being barely a century since the Norman Invasion and the Battle of Hastings) Jacques le Bauer takes the remark as marching orders. In no time, Thomas a Becket lies dead in Canterbury Cathedral, his violent death pinned convincingly on three knights, Sir Oswald (of Orleans), Sir Ruby, and Sir Han.
HENRY blank-space blank-space VII [espionage thriller]
King Henry wants to give double-0 status to his loyal operative Falstaff, but without a positional numeric system and the concept of a digit representing zero, this is impossible.
The film opens with the now iconic opening title sequence: a view down a smoothbore cannon to Henry, preparing, loading, and firing a matchlock pistol. This opening shot lasts just over eighteen minutes and comes to be hailed (and lambasted) as being of Warholian tedium and empty gravitas.
[Yes, al-Khwarizmi's book "On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals" was written about 825 in Arabic and diffused the Hindu-Arabic numeral system into Europe in the 10th century, but it was not in common use in Britain until significantly later and Henry's realm was still saddled with the clumsy Roman numeral system.]
HENRY III: FULL METAL HENRY [military action]
As seen in some of the earlier films in the franchise, the young Prince Harry can be quite frivolous.
But if he is to rule England and defeat her enemies on the field of battle, he must be toughened up.
In FULL METAL HENRY, our Hero is a young naive man who is formed into a fierce warrior by the intense Falstaff.
HENRY: THE MILL NETWORK [science fiction / metaphysical]
A sinister technology powered by water mills has taken over England. The young Henry, an adept with 14th Century hydraulic engineering, is contacted by the mysterious Falstaff and summoned to his castle. Falstaff tells him, "You think it's the year 1399. Really it's more like 1599, although we're not sure what year it really is." Falstaff then offers Henry a choice between a red poultice and a blue poultice.
HENRY RELOADED [science fiction / metaphysical]
Far more convoluted, but still just barely coherent.
HENRY REVOLUTIONS [science fiction / metaphysical]
Much LONGER and LOUDER.
HENRY IV: A NEW HOPE [franchise reboot #2]
Henry V is born, thought to be orphaned, and is raised by his aunt and uncle in Morocco. He meets and is taught by an elderly former crusader living in the deep desert.
First (that is, the fourth) in a series of films, produced and released second half first, a significant pause, and then the first half last.
HENRY V: THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Begins on the frozen Lake Ladoga north of Novgorod, thus referencing "Aleksandr Nevsky", even to the shape of the enemy helmets. Features the developing romance between Falstaff and Henry's girlfriend Katherine of France, eventually known to be Henry's cousin (what with the Norman Invasion and all).
This is the darkest of the series, what with Falstaff being encased in carbonite by a descendant of Charlesmagne.
Features the dramatic personal battle scene between
Henrys IV and V:
Henry V — You killed my father!
Henry IV — Henry, I am your father.
Henry V — Noooo!
HENRY VI: RETURN OF THE KING
Builds up to the decisive battle at Honfleur. In an homage to that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Picard visits his troops the night before a big battle, Henry is seen doing just that, except that this time the king is in disguise!
He then inspires the troops: "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; [....] The Game's afoot: Follow your Spirit; and upon this Charge, Cry, God for Harry, England, and S[aint]. George."
HENRY I: THE FRENCH MENACE
HENRY II: ATTACK OF THE FRENCH
HENRY III: THE REVENGE OF THE BARD
Three more films, rather confusing and mainly for the obsessive fanboy, featuring a Moorish warrior with a purple sword.
The third of those, the last in this series, ends with Henry IV's horrific injuries at Mt Vesuvius.
A modern graphic-novel-based look at the Battle of Agincourt.
It begins when an arrogant French envoy makes demands of Henry's realm as they stand on the cliffs at Dover, above the port where the envoy just arrived. Henry shouts at him, "THIS... IS... ENGLAND!!" and kicks him off the cliff to plummet to his death.
The English prepare for battle against the vast French forces. Katherine tells Henry to return "With your shield, or on it."
Arriving at the Pass of Agincourt, the opposing forces are truly overwhelming. Another envoy warns the English that the French archers' arrows will block the sunlight. Pistol makes his famous remark, "Then we shall fight in the shade."
The heroic English then march into battle against the French forces, led by a king who considers himself to be a god.
[While the English actually won the Battle of Agincourt, with the archery superiority on their side and the battlefield an open plain and not a narrow pass along the Aegean coast, these changes have been made for stylistic reasons.]
HENRY [franchise reboot #3]
Some aspects of this series are more fantastical, leading to the Chorus encouraging the audience to use their imaginations to overcome the stage's limitations: "Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts" and "Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy." As he asks, "Can this cockpit [i.e., the theatre] hold the vasty fields of France?". He calls for "a Muse of Fire" so the actor portraying Henry can "Assume the port [i.e., the bearing] of Mars."
HENRY I: THE MOTION PICTURE
Slow, but it's a franchise restart. Something about the unexpected return of an expedition sent years ago to search for a shorter route to China.
HENRY II: THE WRATH OF THE AGA KHAN
During an expedition beyond the Holy Land, some of Henry's men are astounded to find a former English prisoner, long ago banished to an island beyond Hindustan, still alive. And quite dangerous.
Henry's dear friend Falstaff dies. Just as with HENRY VI: THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, the second film released in this series is the darkest and the most powerful.
HENRY III: THE SEARCH FOR FALSTAFF
Given the success of the second film in this series, the audience's love for the character, and the actor's change of mind, Falstaff is found alive on a remote island.
HENRY IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
With Falstaff fully mended, Henry's royal house finds itself traveling back in time from their familiar 1410s setting to about 1060, the hottest period of the "colde warre" between England and Normandy. They must restore the stoats to Britain to prevent a cataclysm.
A strange well-trimmed black stone is unearthed near the mysterious Stonehenge stone circle on the Salisbury plain. Falstaff and Pistol are sent to investigate. Falstaff is heard to say "Oh my God, it's full of stoats" just before disappearing.
HENRY MMMLXXVII: THE KING'S OWN BARBER-SURGEON UNIT
Black humor and the bleeding of bilious humours just behind the front lines at Agincourt.
HENRY [franchise reboot #4]
An expedition to the Scottish island of LV-CDXXVI discovers a mysterious threat.
[The first two characters of the island's name being letters, the remainder being Roman numerals, also see the difficulty posed by the Roman numerical system of that era in HENRY blank-space blank-space VII.]
The first is simply a retelling of the classic Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf reset in Scotland, the others are more standard monster hunts.
While they are supposed to be preparing for the Battle of Agincourt, a military action that seems to be taking forever to happen, the unfairly demoted Falstaff devises a scheme and talks a unit of men into taking part. It seems that a Papal legation is traveling through the French-held territory just beyond the town of Nancy, transporting a large shipment of gold to the vaults at Antwerp. Gold that Falstaff's men need more than the Pope does....
WHERE ENGLISH DARE
The early Hapsburg dynasty's castle known as Schloss Adler is the scene of intrigue and action, as Henry leads a team into the castle to reveal the identity of Norman intriguers within his court.
Henry, Falstaff, Pistol, and Edward, the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk, were sent to a French military prison for a crime they did not commit. They escaped, and disappeared into the Amsterdam underground.
HENRY: VENETIAN-AEGEAN LOVERS
After the 4th Crusade of 1202-1204, in which the western Crusaders captured and largely destroyed Constantinople (the Holy Land itself being inconveniently distant, and the Byzantines of Constantinople being adequately foreign), Venice seized control of the Aegean islands.
Now, in 1417, two years after the Battle of Agincourt, Henry's new wife Katherine (daughter of the French king Charles VI) talks Henry into a "menage a trois avec une jolie administratress Venetian des iles." Still not fluent in French, Henry is therefore quite surprised by what he finds when they arrive in the islands.
HENRY: ESCAPE FROM LONDON
The Holy Roman Emperor's carriage has wrecked somewhere in the vast and crime-ridden city of London. Henry has a slow burning match fuse tied around his wrist. He must find the Emperor and get him out of London before the slow fuse burns down to the gunpowder charge strapped to his midsection.
After dipping his arm into the Thames, quickly and completely extinguishing the fuse, Henry continues on his mission. For this is a chance to meet the renowned "Falstaff Girl" Adrienne Bimbeaux.
HENRY: ONCE UPON A TIME IN FRANCE
A mysterious man appears walking out of the pastures of Normandy carrying an oversized lute case. Meanwhile a small and nervous man, resembling the English King Henry's friend Pistol, is visiting Norman coaching inns and public houses telling tales of "the biggest Englishman he's ever seen."
Henry's former lover, Katherine of France (daughter of Charles VI, King of France), is now with the Hungarian former heir apparent to the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, Victor Lazlo.
The Normans have invaded and occupied England, making life difficult in southern Britain. Many are trying to leave for the Iberian peninsula, currently the Moorish realm of al-Andalus. Letters of transit to al-Andalus are the current coin of the realm.
Henry arranges travel to Lisbon for Katherine and Victor, sells his coaching inn to Falstaff, and walks off into the fog with a former adversary saying, "Pistol, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
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