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Roland Emmerich
Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall
Writing Credits:
John Orloff

Set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I and the Essex rebellion against her, Edward de Vere composes the plays credited to William Shakespeare.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$1,021,768 on 265 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.l
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 2/7/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Roland Emmerich and Writer John Orloff
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• “More Than Special Effects” Featurette
• “Who Is the Real William Shakespeare?” Featurette
• “Speak the Speech” Featurette
• Previews


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-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Anonymous [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 28, 2023)

After a career built around big blockbusters such as 1996’s Independence Day and 1998’s Godzilla, filmmaker Roland Emmerich decided to “go serious” in 2011. That year took him behind the camera for Anonymous, a drama about the works of William Shakespeare.

Set in early 17th century England, the health of Queen Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave) declines, and without an heir, many conspire to seize the throne after her death. This leads to conflicts between Elizabeth’s chief advisor William Cecil (David Thewlis) – who wants to install King James of Scotland (James Clyde) as a figurehead he controls – and the Earl of Essex (Sam Reid), a man strongly rumored to be the Queen’s bastard child.

17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans) desires to use his plays to sway opinion toward Essex, but he can’t do so publicly. Instead, de Vere’s works get credited to an actor named William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall).

For centuries, rumors have persisted that Shakespeare didn’t actually compose all the material attributed to him. Anonymous gives credence to these theories, as it obviously posits that de Vere created the plays.

I won’t parse these notions here, as this debate remains outside of the scope of this movie review. Anonymous contends that de Vere composed the plays, so we need to just go with that concept and not worry about the accuracy of that claim – or the film’s many historical inaccuracies.

Given the premise, one might expect Anonymous to focus on the main controversy. The film sells itself as an investigation of the authorship of the plays credited to Shakespeare, so it makes sense for a viewer to anticipate that topic to dominate the tale.

Nope. Instead, Anonymous tosses its net wide and tries to touch on a big old variety of domains.

As indicated, a lot of Anonymous deals with the political issues of the era. In addition, we go back to visit young de Vere (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his relationship with a younger Elizabeth (Joely Richardson) in decades earlier.

Perhaps a skilled dramatic filmmaker could tie together these realms in a compelling manner. Emmerich doesn’t qualify as that filmmaker.

Instead, Emmerich remains in “Blockbuster Mode” and plays pretty much everything about Anonymous as big and broad. If Emmerich wanted to use this film to make a claim as a “serious director”, he flopped, as he simply couldn’t adapt his loud, aggressive style for a character-based piece.

Granted, I can’t blame Emmerich for the overreach of the story. John Orloff’s screenplay crammed in all these elements, so the scattered nature of the narrative remains his problem.

However, Emmerich makes matters worse with his inability to tell a tale beyond the bombast. Under his command, Anonymous becomes an inconsistent, erratic, borderline nonsensical mess.

Anonymous does enjoy a good cast. While no truly famous names appear, the actors form a quality group.

Unfortunately, they find themselves stuck in an incoherent slice of historical fiction. Even with a premise that boasts great intrigue, the end result turns into a tedious and forgettable dud.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Anonymous appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a strong presentation.

Sharpness worked well. Virtually no softness materialized, so we wound up with a tight, accurate image.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.

Most of Anonymous opted for a mix of heavy golds, oranges and ambers, though it threw in plenty of teal as well. These hues took on comical extremes, but the Blu-ray replicated them appropriately.

Blacks felt deep and dense, while shadows seemed smooth and concise. This turned into an excellent transfer.

Despite the movie’s ostensible character emphasis, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack boasted a pretty high level of immersiveness. That happened because the story offered a mix of action elements, all of which allowed the soundfield to prosper.

Even during quieter moments, the soundscape used the various channels in an active manner that created a vivid sonic impression. Throw in solid musical involvement and this turned into a pretty good soundfield.

Audio quality worked well, with speech that sounded natural and concise. Music showed nice range and impact.

Effects appeared accurate and full, with appealing lows and crisp highs. This became an above average soundtrack.

When we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Roland Emmerich and writer John Orloff. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at historical elements vs. liberties, story, characters and screenplay, cast and performances, costumes and makeup, sets and effects, and related topics.

Not much inspires more fear in my heart than the phrase “audio commentary with Roland Emmerich”. I’ve heard a good half-dozen of his tracks, and he usually offers a dull, inarticulate presence who makes these discussions a chore.

When Emmerich’s commentaries work, they do so because he seems more invested in the material. Often he appears bored, but when Emmerich shows some spark, he fares better.

Which happens here. On the negative side, Emmerich remains inarticulate, as various uses of “like”, “you know” and “kind of” impact nearly every sentence he utters – often all at the same time.

Still, Emmerich’s engaged attitude makes these verbal tics less annoying, and the presence of Orloff helps, as he balances out the director’s drawbacks. Though the pair delivers too much happy talk, they offer enough useful material to make this a decent discussion.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of two minutes, 54 seconds, while two Extended Scenes take up a total of three minutes, 29 seconds.

The extensions prove exceedingly modest, and the deleted clips don’t fare much better. We get some mild character additions but nothing memorable.

Three featurettes follow, and More Than Special Effects spans 13 minutes, eight seconds. It brings notes from Emmerich, director of photography Anna J. Foerster, costume designer Lisy Kristl, production designer Sebastian Krawinkel, visual effects supervisors Marc Weigert and Volker Engel, and actors Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave.

This piece discusses the ways the movie used various effects to bring 1600s London to life as well as sets, photography, costumes and other elements. This becomes a pretty good look at these efforts.

Who Is the Real William Shakespeare? goes for 10 minutes, 39 seconds. It involves Emmerich, Orloff, Redgrave, Richardson, and actors Rhys Ifans and David Thewlis.

As implied, “Real” examines the possibility Shakespeare didn’t write the works credited to him. Unsurprisingly, the featurette supports this notion. It tosses out some ideas but doesn’t come with much real substance.

Finally, Speak the Speech lasts 16 minutes, 14 seconds. Here we get remarks from Emmerich, Ifans, Redgrave, Richardson, Thewlis and actors Jamie Campbell Bower, Sebastian Armesto, Trystan Gravelle and Rafe Spall.

“Speak” gets into cast/performances. A few insights emerge but much of the segment feels superficial.

The disc opens with ads for Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Carnage, A Dangerous Method, The Ides of March, Fireflies in the Garden and The Rum Diary. No trailer for Anonymous appears here.

With Anonymous, Roland Emmerich attempted a more serious film than his usual action fare. Unfortunately, he relied too much on his usual bombastic tendencies and made this a messy, incoherent flop. The Blu-ray boasts strong picture and audio along with a mix of bonus materials. Someone could make a good movie about this one’s subject matter, but Roland Emmerich isn’t that person.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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