If, as playground mnemonics for remembering the order of the visible colors within the spectrum of light are accurate and to be trusted — and why wouldn’t they be: it’s science — then Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain. Incidentally, it’s also a recorded historical fact that Richard of York, or Richard Plantagenet, or King Richard III, managed to remain the monarch of the sceptered isle called Merrie Olde England for two years before he was roundly defeated at Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor in 1485.
What the memory aide fails to account for, however, is the sheer amount of Machiavellian bastardry that Richard possibly brought to his A-game of thrones in getting that far. I guess they don’t cover that in science class.
Luckily, William Shakespeare was on hand 100 or so years later (circa. 1592) to have a crack at pleasing his Tudor Elizabethan nation with a tale of hump-backed hijinks (if by that we mean directly plotting the murder of everyone around him, including the Princes in the Tower) until the whole enterprise comes undone by nemesis-induced hubris, or, the Roadrunner of Henry VII to Richard’s Wile E. Coyote.
Now newly remastered and released in HD by the BFI, in director Richard Lonzcraine’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III, half of the play’s text has been stripped away, but what we are offered instead is Sir Ian McKellen as Richard of York: in fine form and assuredly ripping his way through each scene in the brisk 104-minute running time. This isn’t McKellen’s Gandalf, casually puffing a pipe until the world resets itself and order is restored, this is full-on bi-polar Magneto: one-part stiff and calculatedly unmoving façade (compounded by his physical infirmities), to one-part joyfully skipping through the daisy fields of fallen victims with nary a care in the world…
The full 1,400 word version of this review is published at PopMatters.com, where you can read the rest of the article for free.