Julius Caesar (2002)
Movie InfoThis ambitious, four-hour cable miniseries stars Jeremy Sisto (taking time off from his regular series Six Feet Under) as Roman general-turned-emperor Julius Caesar. Expensively filmed in Malta and Bulgaria, the production vividly traces Caesar's rise to prominence as a brilliant military tactician (with remarkably accurate battle scenes); his complex relationships with his mentor General Pompey (Chris Noth) and his second wife Calpurnia (Valeria Golino); his ideological tiltings with Senator Cato (Christopher Walken), who advocates democracy over Caesar's dictatorial ambitions; and his bloody (but inevitable) murder at the hands of former friends and allies. Taking some dramatic license with the facts, the film is basically sympathetic to its subject, although Caesar is depicted as a flawed man, both physically and morally. Giving Caesar points for being fundamentally honorable, in full possession of his faculties, and possessing the "common touch" with the Roman citizenry, the teleplay does not shrink away from the man's violent epileptic seizures, his megalomania, his casually calculated cruelties, and his bigamous relationship with Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Samuela Sardo). Interestingly enough, however, the miniseries downplays his notorious bisexuality ("Every man's woman and every woman's man"). In his final performance, Richard Harris appears as Caesar's wily bÍte noire, Roman dictator Sulla. Caesar was first telecast in the U.S. on June 29-30, 2003, by the TNT cable network. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Julius Caesar
Audience Reviews for Julius Caesar
First Jesus and now Julius, and no matter how much Caesar was fancied as some kind of diety, it would appear as though Jeremy Sisto is taking a step down on the religious totem pole, and not just because he went from a TV film to a TV miniseries, and now, sure enough, the "law and order" of the entertainment industry has dropped him "six feet under" to "Suburgatory". Wow, sounds like if Sisto's stuck in any kind of purgatory, it's TV purgatory, or at least he hooked up with ABC, which is pretty much the lowest pit on network television. It's probably his punishment for either that crazy fan blown hairdo he was sporting as Jesus or his falling "into temptation". Oh hey, that was a film, and a respectable independent drama, at that, so I guess that he can leave the land of TV, but it has to be for movies that no one is going to see. I guess if TNT knows anything about drama that Sisto doesn't, it's how to make drama that people are gonna watch. They certainly don't know how to come up with spotless drama. Now, that's not to say that this miniseries isn't good, because this is an ultimately enjoyable watch, though I was hoping for a little bit more out of what appears to be the only dramatization of the life and times of Julius Caesar that wasn't that blasted Shakespeare play.
At three hours, give or take, this isn't much of a lengthy miniseries for subject matter so sweeping, and yet, somewhat surprisingly, things aren't as all over the place as I feared, yet make no mistake, this series is still quite a mess, being tight to a fault in its meditation that's just not meditative enough to absord a whole lot of depth, and the awkward momentary lapses in subtlety - particularly of the often weak, if not laughable dialogue persuasion - don't help. The hurrying certainly slips us into major shifts in the story rather messily, to where you'd be hard pressed to not be a tad thrown off, so much so that I can see the occasional person finding him or herself just downright confused for a brief spell. Still, even with all of this rushing, the series still finds time to jam in the occasional forced-feeling bit of material in a rather matter-of-fact fashion. Of course, the messiness of seemingly crowbarred in excess material may simply lead back to the fact that the series feels too rushed, not taking enough time to smooth out the edges and make even some of the most seemingly forced aspects fit like a glove, yet either way, the point is that the series does get to be consistently messy, but at least it's consistent about something. The series dances around occasionally overbearing traditional drama and dryly dull meditation, as well as such other storytelling styles and tones as somewhat corny casual spots, and hardly does so with ease, slipping quite often in its jarring tonal shifts that further slow down the momentum of this project, something that can also be said about such other storytelling missteps as over-meditation upon other characters and subplots to where focus grows a tad uneven. The problem with this series is a problem found in many a network or cable miniseries of a nature similar to that of this series, in that it is too TV amateur for such high ambition, and whether it be the aforementioned storytelling missteps or even some awkwardly faulty spots in writing, this saga ultimately falls as an underwhelming take on something of high potential. However, with all of its spotiness, and relentless spottiness at that, the saga is a watchable - nay - quite enjoyable one, making up for its missteps with ultimately prevailing strengths, including stylistic ones.
While not as sweeping in scope as it would have been were this a theatrical feature, the cinematography remains rather cinematic, with a handsome taste in lighting and coloring that gathers grit to really sell the darker moments and brightness to enhance some of your livlier moments, yet it's the production designs that really help in selling this world. Now, come on, this is TNT we're talking about, so don't go into this series expecting budget usage on an HBO TV production level of quality, yet expect this series to work extremely well with what it has, reconstructing this era with much competence and a degree of authenticity in feel, thus enhancing the entertainment value that ultimately stands as perhaps what keeps this series going the most. Uli Edel is faulty as all get-out in his direction, partially because he is so retrained by a just as, if not... no, decidedly faultier script, yet what Edel gets right, he nails, whether it be in the occasional gripping piece of intrigue, which is at its most intense in the, albeit overdrawn, but admittedly outstanding final act or so, or, as I said, the consistent entertainment value that really wins you over, and does so with the help of a colorful cast that goes riddled with miscasts. Not the best casting decisions, if I do say so, yet the cast is still a strong one, with charismas and talents to spare, and a particularly engaging Jeremy Sisto boldly leading the way. Sisto isn't killing things dead as an actor, as he is rarely given enough material to even come close to doing something along those lines, yet what Sisto is given to do gets done ever so right, being relentlessly charismatic and nailing that winning charm and stern presence that defined Caesar, even if his generally being miscast makes it hard to fully buy him as Caesar. Still, Sisto tries ever so diligently, being careful and confident in his embodyment of Caesar, and in the end, while his being fully transformative is highly debatable, I would consider it more agreeable that he still ultimately comes out as a strong lead, with layers, spirit and an all around engrossing presence. I wish there was more meat to this effort for it to transcend its missteps and stand strong, yet the final product remains competently acted and produced, as well as ever so entertaining enough to keep you sticking with it, and enjoyably so.
Bottom line, the project's promising potential and ambitions go betrayed by storytelling that is much too hurried, to the point of leaving many an edge to the story structure bumpy and awkward, while draining the series of much depth, a situation made worse by the unsubtleties within the spotty writing and much unevenness in both focus and tone, thus making for an underwhelming execution of a promising premise, but a still enjoyable one, nevertheless, being supported by good use of the production for handsome cinematography and fine production designs to really bring this world to life, and do so with the help of an, at times, effective directing job by Uli Edel, as well as a colorful cast, headed by a charismatic and assured Jeremy Sisto, who helps in ultimately making "Julius Caesar" a consistently entertaining and generally enjoyable study on the life and times of one of history's most iconic rulers.
2.5/5 - Fair
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