March 10, 2017
Review #913: Hamlet (1990).
Mel Gibson (Prince Hamlet), Glenn Close (Queen Gertrude), Alan Bates (King Claudius), Paul Scofield (Ghost of Hamlet's Father), Ian Holm (Polonius), Helena Bonham Carter (Ophelia), Stephen Dillane (Horatio), Nathaniel Parker (Laertes), and Michael Maloney and Sean Murray (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) Directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
I had read this play when I was in senior year of high school (are you surprised?), and I felt that it was a great play, though (naturally) I read it just once. Around two years later, it only made sense that I get around to seeing the 1990 version of Hamlet, compliments of my British Literature class. Whether one interprets the play as one dominated by an inability to act or one of revenge, the movie Obviously the movie takes liberties with the play (after all, it only lasts 134 minutes), but the best thing I can say about the movie is that it is competent enough in the right areas to overcome any doubt of feeling not needed. I will admit, the first half of the movie did not exactly give too much hope; it wasn't a terrible half, but it didn't exactly inspire too much confidence in Gibson (nor the film) having the right kind of passion. However, the second half of the movie does bring itself some well needed tension, where Gibson, Close, and Bates get their chance to show their talents in the climax. It's a swift and satisfying one, where the fencing sequence with Gibson and Parker being a key highlight, obviously.
This is the kind of movie that may vary heavily depending on how one views Gibson in the role of Hamlet. It took me a while to really get invested in Gibson, but he manages to excel at times when having to make madness feel mad. His take on the famed "To be, or not to be" soliloquy has a degree of raw sincerity that works with the carnal nature of the film. Close and Bates are acceptable, with the former being good at showing the motherly love that creeps into the psyche and provides for a particularly interesting scene in the last half of the film. Bates does a decent performance, managing to balance a demeanor of power and sinister nature pretty well. The sets and costumes look well made, looking deft without being too distracting. For me, the movie is well crafted and slick enough with its energy that work in the right places. But I can't find myself wanting to watch this film again, and I think it's because it would be like trying to read Hamlet again; sometimes you just have to let things lie where they are. It is a movie worth recommending for at least one viewing, though I should note there are numerous adaptations of the play as well. There is the 1948 version with Laurence Olivier (which won Best Picture and three other Oscars that year) or the 1996 version by Kenneth Branagh that was the first unabridged theatrical film version of the play (which runs at just over four hours). Of course there's also the 2000 version that updates the setting to the modern day...or the story done with lions in The Lion King. Whatever the case, this is a decent enough film.
Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.