• 27 Jul - 02 Aug, 2019
  • Mag The Weekly

The Last Czars is a surreal Wikipedia entry brought to life, mixing voiceover, a narrator figure, dramatic reconstructions and talking heads from academics who are experts in the period. It is like a horrific meta-experiment in exposition for people with the memories of goldfish. Who is the intended audience? People who have never heard of Rasputin? People who have never heard of Russia?

The Last Czars primarily focus almost exclusively on the Romanovs – and even the Russian Revolution is viewed through the prism of that family – but it’s also a lousy television mini-series, and a weird one, at that. It’s like campy, B-movie Rome, only every five minutes, a talking head comes onscreen to explain what we just saw. It’s not a prestige drama. It’s basically a mediocre History Channel show. There are some cheesy delights in watching The Last Czars, particularly for Russians, who are apparently hate-watching the series and laughing. The costumes are nice, and the acting is serviceable, although the reason the series probably couldn’t get any name actors is because all of their scenes are eventually trampled on by talking heads. In addition to the talking heads, there’s also voiceover and a narrator, an actor who plays the former tutor of the Romanov children, who is trying to determine whether a woman claiming to be Anastasia Romanov is actually her (spoilers: She’s not, and yet this dead-end storyline bookends every episode).

The actors do their best, the cinematography is beautiful, and the costumes are gorgeous. On some level, you settle momentarily into the beauty of it.

It is not unwatchable.

– Compilation