The only thing longer than Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is the wait for a rousing screen adaptation. The latest attempt, an eight-hour miniseries unspooling on three cable networks over the next four Monday nights, does not appear to solve the fundamental problem that great Russian literature, despite its inclusion of gory fights and romantic yearnings, is more philosophy dissertation than pulp drama.
Director Tom Harper does his best to give the production an epic feel, setting elaborate scenes in lavish palaces and wide-open battlegrounds with an international cast in costumes that were definitely not on loan from a Halloween thrift shop. But all the eye candy in the world can’t overcome the fact that this “War” doesn’t have enough cliffhangers and unexpected twists to keep audiences hooked for an entire month.
If contemplating deep thoughts about man’s roles and responsibilities trumped heart-pounding action, “Empire” would star Cornel West.
Those who tune in to give their brain a workout could be adequately challenged by Paul Dano’s Pierre, a pseudointellectual who speaks to the coward in all of us, and may press pause after Stephen Rea’s character declares that “everything ends in death,” if only to reconsider one’s insurance policy.
Unfortunately, you can expect most viewers to bail by the second Monday so they can focus on more manageable dilemmas — like who should get a golden ticket to Hollywood on “American Idol.”