Treachery. Madness. Murder. The story of Hamlet has been told for 400 years...but it's never been told like this! Mel Gibson (the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon films) takes on his richest part to date, the title role in... more » a dynamic new version of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet, Jesus of Nazareth), the location-shot production has a sumptuous look that won Academy Award nominations for Art Direction and Costume Design. Gibson plays the prince of medieval-era Denmark, who senses treachery behind his royal father's death. Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons) plays Hamlet's mother Gertrude, all too dangerously entangled in that treachery. A brilliant supporting cast, including Alan Bates as Claudius, Paul Scofield as the ghost of Hamlet's father, Ian Holm as Polonius and Helena Bonham-Carter as Ophelia, adds its powerful presence to this immortal tale of high adventure and evil deeds. Big, bold and heroic, this is a vivid and virile Hamlet for the modern age and all time.« less
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 07/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a Hamlet that's easy on the eyes and the mind...if you don't have the time and stamina for Branagh's 4 hour version, and can't get hold of Olivier's exquisite 1948 film, this is the one for you ! Mel Gibson is excellent as Hamlet. He gives him humor and a masculine vigor, and the top-notch supporting cast is superb. I especially like Alan Bates..his lusty, murderous king is fabulous...and mention should be made of Nathaniel Parker's wonderful Laertes. David Watkin's cinematography is stunning, Ennio Morricone's score subtle and beautiful, and the production one of Zeffirelli's best. This is very enjoyable Shakespeare, even for those who normally don't like him, and I highly recommend this to parents who would like to introduce their teenagers to the Bard. Don't miss this glorious movie !"
Frost Liederbach | 11/30/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's odd. As I read through some of the negative reviews of this version of Hamlet, I can almost agree with some of the points that are made. But it doesn't change the fact that this is far superior to Branagh's version. I know how much it bothers Branagh fans and many Shakespeare purists to hear that, but that just makes it that much more fun to say. The basic reason for this is that Zefferelli, although he is a bit too carefree with his cuts and shuffling, has far better aesthetic sensibilities than Branagh. The emotions of the characters in this version are far more compelling, engaging, and distinct than the lukewarm indifference that comprised the tonality of Branagh's adaptation. And though I'm no Mel Gibson fanatic, he does an *exceptional* job in his role, and keeps the film compelling through all of its hacks and alterations. Though far from a perfect adaptation, this is an engaging and rewarding movie. I've always thought it was far better than most people seem to give it credit for."
Accessible Version of a timeless play - worth 4.5
Alesha N. Gates | Mississippi | 03/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Once again, I'd like to give a half-star rating, but alas . . .
As my by-line indicates, I am a former high school teacher. Without exception, this is the version of Hamlet that is a class-room favorite. (I show 2 others: Branaugh (2nd place) and the film starring Ethan Hawke (everyone hates it).) It is accessible to younger viewers and is just a beautiful film all around.
The filming, camera work and sets are impeccable. One is instantly transported into the world these characters inhabit. As to the script, it IS heavily edited; however, most of what is omitted (see note below) is "shown" to the audience through visual media. This isn't a "filmed version of the play"; it is a film based on the play. In that framework, it is quite well done. I particularly like the beginning scenes that make Hamlet's description of his mother - "Like Niobe, all tears" - come to life.
The acting, to my thinking, is superb. The emphasis here is on Hamlet's relationship to his mother, Gertrude. That comes through quite clearly. Gibson's Hamlet comes across as a soldier - a man of action - who agonizes over the eternal consequences of his acts. He is believable in the role, masterful in some ways. Likewise the supporting cast. Helena Bonham-Carter and Glenn Close provide particularly vibrant portrayals of their characters.
So, why not 5 stars? Without the "Fortinbras" subplot, some of the urgency in the play seems missing. While definitely a secondary story-line, it provides a framework that adds tension to the play as a whole as the war is waged both outside the castle walls and within.
Overall, this production gets an A. Very accessible. Very easily understood. And haunting in its own way."
A good abridged Hamlet
Frost Liederbach | New Mexico | 11/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just taught a course on Hamlet for Lifelong Learning and this was one of four film versions of Hamlet I used. This is a very good short version of the play. Mel Gibson does a credible job and the supporting cast is excellent. Glenn Close as Gertrude is outstanding - she shows the giddiness and joy of new love which helps to explain the rashness of her remarriage. Alan Bates as Claudius is likeable and you can see why Gertrude violated canonical law to marry him. This is the incestuous relationship at the heart of the play. Think of your mother marring your uncle.
The reason I did not use Olivier's Hamlet is that while it's a good film with great acting - it's a very bad Hamlet. Freud was very much in vogue at the time and Olivier distorted the movie to put overtones of the Oedipus Complex into it. Also the Claudius in this film is obnoxious and there is no reason for Gertrude to marry him or for Hamlet to delay so long.
One of the important points of this play is the struggle between the two "mighty opposites" of Hamlet and Claudius. They have to be seen as equals. The best Claudius I have seen is Derek Jacobi in Branaugh's Hamlet (also my favorite version of Hamlet).
For a short version of the play, I would definately recommend this Hamlet over the Olivier version.
Another point for viewers to note, in Shakespeare's time, a ghost could either be good or evil. Hamlet has doubts about the truth of the ghost's statement until the mousetrap play proves the allegations. At this time Hamlet assumes the ghost is a good, but sometimes an evil spirit can be telling the truth. It is up to the viewer to decide if the ghost is from heaven or from hell. "
A wonderful primer and more accurate than people think.
Stephen Cords | Brockton, MA USA | 03/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gibson as the Melancholy Dane. Originally, Shakespeare's plays were intended for the masses. At the time they were looked at like Adam Sandler movies are today. What's wrong with making his greatest work more accessible to contemporary audiences and possibly setting off a few sparks of interest in folks who may have otherwise been content to spend their $10 on a Happy Gilmore sequel instead?I was an English major in college and spent a lot of time that first semester `decoding the bard'. It wasn't until my sophomore year that I was able to truly immerse myself in the language and enjoy Shakespeare for what it is. Had Gibson's Hamlet been around I may have been able to get into the waters a bit quicker. His performance was riveting and the rest of the cast was simply amazing. I fell in love with Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia and nearly cried when she... Wait! Spoiler there. (Yes, Shakespeare can be spoiled for the uninitiated.)One last thing I would like to point out to those who complained about Mel being far too animated and crazed as Hamlet. Melancholia was considered a medical term in Shakespeare's time. It was a generic term used to describe a variety of psychological maladies, which included mood swings and possibly even schizophrenia. Just because Gibson chose to go in a different direction from more traditional interpretations doesn't make him wrong. He may have been closer to The Bard's vision of the character than Olivier or Richard Burton. (Maybe.)Regardless, this is at the very least a very entertaining interpretation of a great classic. Now let's talk about why Brannaugh's uncut, super, four hour edition has not been released... What fools these mortals be."