Okay, now, this is completely inaccurate as a biographical account, because I'm pretty sure Queen Latifah was not alive during the American Civil War. I don't know what people will find more disturbing: the stupidity of that joke or the horrifying idea of Halle Berry turning into Queen Latifah. Not to sound racist, but I'm not really all that into black girls, so I only half-care, as opposed to the makers of this series, who were so thrilled about interacial attraction that they wasted no time in adapting this sprawling 1993 novel into a sprawling "early" 1993 miniseries. Alex Haley didn't even live to see this book finished, and they knocked this whole show out in no time, though that's probably because its teleplay writer, David Stevens, was lucky enough to get an early look at the book (Ha-ha, I rhymed), seeing as how he ended up being the one who finished it, and justly so, because considering that he wrote the play "The Sum of Us", a tale about a family featuring a young man trying to find his Mr. Right, or rather, "somebody to love", he would know a thing or two about the struggles of a gay man like Freddie Mercury. Oh no, wait, this show isn't about the band Queen, - as shocking as that is to hear, considering how black of a band Queen is - this is yet another epic-scale testament to Alex Haley's never getting around to shutting up about his heritage. He literally took his research of his ancestry to his grave, and I really am wondering just what in the world he would have uncovered in his bloodline if he dug a little deeper, though that's largely because I'm wanting to know if his son really is Luke Skywalker (Look up the cast list for "Roots: The Next Generations" and you'll get it). Hey, if this is where it ends for the story of the Kinte bloodline, then I reckon I'm okay with it, because this is quite the interesting story, and one that sure makes for a good show, which isn't to say that this series' being too loose of a biopic on Queen Latifah and Freddie Mercury is its biggest issue.
Each one of these Alex Haley series have been relatively surprising in their, by network TV drama standards, genuineness, with this series continuing the "Roots" mythlogy's tradition of being more evasive of subtlety issues than it could have been, though not quite as much as it should have been, for although this series is generally genuine, there is the occasional manipulative moments, some of which go so far as to dip into melodrama. Sure, this film's subtlety lapses are limited in quantity, and even when they're at their very worst, a descent into just plain corny is never made, or at least very rarely made ("I thought I was gonna die from your love"...), but this drama can only go on for so long before slipping out of relative consistency in bonafide resonance, which isn't to say that unevenness ends there. Where "Roots" and "Roots: The Next Generations" were extensive studies on, not one character, but a series of members in a bloodline that spans about a century or so, this series centers around one character, thus the unevenness that plagued this series' sisters has been thinned out tremendously, though unfortunately still not quite to the point of dissipation, because as generally comfortable as this story's flow is, Halle Berry's titular Queen Jackson character extensively faces several dynamic events and characters, yet still doesn't take the time that it should to meditate upon the full exposition and depth of this story's range, thus leaving certain key story aspects to come off as unnecessary and, of course, supplementary to focal inconsistency. This series' focus certainly isn't as messy as that of its sister series, but after a while, you'll find yourself much too often thrown off by this series' slapdashing through too many plot areas that either could have really worked as a strong compliment to the depths of this saga, or, well, been cut altogether. With all of my complaints about how this film all too often discards promising plot areas to spark a sense of unevenness, hurrying, outside of that area of storytelling, is hardly a big deal, so what this series really has to worry about is, of course, bloating, because all of this unevenness, as well as repetition, could have perhaps been avoided if this saga wasn't just so blasted overblown, not necessarily to the point of falling flat as too sprawling to stick with, but decidedly to the point of feeling rather overambitious. It's not like this series' ambitions aren't just, as this story is worthwhile, as reflected by its being crafted into a series that is still compelling, regardless of its shortcomings, though not exactly to where you can completely forget the final product's issues. Still, as flawed as this series' storytelling is, you'd be hard pressed to not be compelled through and through by this saga, a generally well-crafted, if a bit overambitious drama that delivers on plenty of intrigue, and plenty of production value.
"Roots" wasn't cheap, and "The Next Generations" was as sure as sunshine not cheap, and both productions put their money to good use, crafting their worlds adequately, though not exactly remarkably, being too relatively minimalist in scale to really play up their production value, as opposed to this series, whose production value isn't exactly phenomenal, but certainly remarkable in its having the scope and guts to put a lot of effort into intricately crafting a believable and nifty world that catches your eye, and not just because of the photographic efforts. For the life of me, I somehow can't find the identity of this series' cinematographer, but whomever this person may be, my hat is off to him or her, as his or her efforts, while not breathtaking, is consistently quite tasteful in its plays with coloring and lighting, which has a tendency to sometimes go from tasteful to just plain stunning, thus making the series a strong visual piece, as surely as it is something of a strong musical piece, as Christopher Dedrick must also gain some recognition for his spirited and sometimes upstanding score work. Even back in 1993, by television production standards, it had been a long time since the late 1970s, and this series put its then-contemporary artistic and technical sensibilties to good use, crafting this world with plenty of artistic grace and style. As for the substance behind this series, no matter how much the final product both bloats and hurries itself along, it's hard as all get-out to deny the value within Alex Haley's "factional" tale, which is rich with the potential for compellingness and thematic depth that, more often than not, recieves justice from teleplay writer and source material book completer David Stevens, who draws lively characterization and depth, which in turn recieves its own bit of justice from director John Erman. Erman's efforts are a bit too ambitious for their own good at times, as well as flawed by their own right, but on the whole, Erman delivers, providing enough entertainment value and dramatic strength to earn your investment, which is further secured by the onscreen carriers of this saga. There are plenty of talented components to this cast, and most every one of them has his or her time to shine, even such much too briefly present forces as episodes 1's Martin Sheen - who nails both Irish-American accent and depth of the good-hearted slaver who comes to find flaws in the traditions he has had to follow- and episode 3's Richard Jenkin, who effectively despicable in his audacious portrayal of a despicable radical racist who is as willing to die as he is to kill to preserve his questionable sense of order - and plenty of other people in between, from the compelling Dennis Haysbert to the charming Danny Glover, so you know that it's saying something to proclaim that leading lady Halle Berry is this series' strongest performance, delivering on powerful layers and emotional range in her engrossing portrayal of a mulatto who is trapped in society by her mixed race, and will face many unbearable hardships that will test her innocence and humanity. Berry isn't necessarily masterful, but she is indeed a powerful lead, as well as just one of many strengths behind this flawed, but ultimately rewarding opus that brings the saga of Alex Haley's roots to a generally satisfying conclusion.
In conclusion, there are melodramatic spells, as well as some focal unevenness, spawned from hurrying past certain plot aspects that really aren't all that needed in the first place, being not much more than supplements to the rather repetitious bloating that makes this overambitious effort too overblown for its own good, though not to the point of completely dismissing its engagement value, as there is enough sharpness to the production designs, cinematography and score work to provide striking style, as well as enough story value, brought to life by inspired writing, direction and acting, - particularly by leading lady Halle Berry - to make "Alex Haley's Queen" a rewarding near-epic study on the struggles faced by the mulattoes who struggled to fit into a post-slavery society that was rich with racial tension and plenty of other life challenges.
3/5 - Good