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10/10
A potent translation
jchong15 May 2000
With his stunning new vision of the most revered of Shakespeare's plays, director Michael Almereyda has effectively transposed many of the enduring themes of that classic work to our contemporary hi-tech era. Even if you are not very familiar with Shakespeare's plays or have always been confounded by his verse, one can still appreciate this film for the tremendously inventive ways by which Almereyda has interpreted the core scenes of Hamlet in the context of corporate America. His visually striking translation of scenes like Ophelia's drowning and Hamlet's famous `to be or not to be' soliloquy are a delight and true brain candy. The cast is all around superb, with the classically delivered lines from actors Liev Schreiber (Laertes) and Sam Shepard (Ghost) nicely counterbalancing the very contemporary style of delivery from Ethan Hawk (Hamlet), Bill Murray (Polonius), and Julia Stiles (Ophelia).

There will no doubt be much comparison between this film and Baz Luhrmann's flashy modern remake of Romeo and Juliet. However, whereas Luhrmann's film ultimately fails in going beyond the boundaries of its visually striking presentation, Almereyda's Hamlet proves to be far more than a mere spectacle for the senses. In fact, this is the serious flaw that plagues most of the films coming from young, talented independent filmmakers these days: all style, no substance. Well, this Hamlet has both. By setting the film deep in the heart of a very real and very modern steel and concrete American jungle like New York City, which is infused with the relics of the mass media and cold capitalistic consumerism, Almereyda powerfully enhances for the audience the sense of the desolation of his characters that results from urban isolation. This is a theme that Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai has so masterfully examined with his films Fallen Angels and Chungking Express. In Hamlet, we get a powerful dose of both Kar-Wai's visual flair and the sensitive, crumbling heart that it sheathes.
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8/10
Bravo!
sdl-228 April 2001
Nearly four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare continues to be the best screenwriter in the English language. This beautiful, moody, stylish adaptation of his greatest play is no exception. Another wonderful thing about the Bard is how his drama seems to elevate any actor willing to take on the challenge. I especially enjoyed Bill Murray as Polonius: his performance was all the more delightful because of the necessity of restraining his comic genius here; he appears always on the edge of cracking a joke, and of course doesn't, adding even more tension to an already extremely taught production.

But what I loved most about this movie was how it departed from the usual staging conventions (medieval costume, stone castles) to get at the heart of what the play is really about: a kid coming home on a college break and discovering that his uncle has murdered his father and is having sex with his mother. Ethan Hawke does a fantastic job in the role, giving us the brooding, confused, lovesick, and ultimately self-destructive adolescent that Shakespeare intended.

If I were a high-school English teacher, this is the Hamlet that I would want to show my students.
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The Film's the Thing
tedg3 July 2000
Is this Hamlet? Depends on who you ask I suppose.

There are some who would require the plot and drama: a son whose inheritance is interrupted, so who may be imagining the murder of his father; a vapid, doting, hedonistic mother; a loyal, by the book counselor, his earnest son and brilliant daughter, she smitten by the prince. A scheming king -- wheels turn and everyone dies.

Some would consider the language the essential element. This is the poet's most convoluted, and heavily annotated metaphoric fabric. Shakespeare is most often celebrated for his layering and interelating of mental images, and certainly this work is his most globally elaborate (sorry).

But just as the language rides on the drama, the ideas of the play ride on the metaphors. These ideas are life-altering in their starkness: Reality, thought, creation, intent, the cause and validity of unnatural action, relationships among cocreated internal worlds. Much of this is developed in frightening and challenging terms. To my tastes, the ideas are what is important. Too many Hamlets (notably Olivier's)faithfully include the first two and never touch the third. I'd buy a complete abandonment of the first, but cannot see how one could get to the third without most of the second.

Now. This film. They have preserved the plot well enough for a film, I suppose. And they have kept the language, about one third of it anyway.

The bad:

Bill Murray is lost in Polonius, utterly lost. The production quality is poor -- that fits the film school motif (see below), but there is no excuse for the many boom mikes sticking down. They repurposed so much to fit the new setting, so why stick with swords at the end?

The biggest complaint is that they missed all the ideas, the big ones. The central example is at the end of the first act, where Hamlet says: `there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Hamlet, and Horatio are students of Wittenburg philosophy, which audiences would have understood as that of the magi Giordano Bruno, martyred by the Pope. (His book is the one Hamlet quotes when asked `what is the matter?,' and Bruno is also quoted in the northnorthwest and hawk from a handsaw lines.) The play has much to do with understanding Bruno's questions of thought and action. When Hamlet differentiates himself from Horatio, the play really starts. In this film, though, the `your' becomes `our.' Why?

The Good:

This Ophelia is wonderful. I don't know her other work yet, but it includes two other Shakespeare adaptations. She certainly was helped by the woman director, who amplifies the female roles in emotion if not screentime. She even transforms Marcello into a Marcella, Horatio's girlfriend. Rather nice. Also well done is the staging of the Rosenkrantz and Guilderstern dialog.

The central device of the film is rather clever, if not original. The play is deeply self-referential. All the rich text about introspection is what is usually cut in the name of modern impatience, and that is the case here. Also gone here is the sharply self-referential scenes of Hamlet lecturing the players. What we have in its place is self-reference about film, and filming. Hamlet and Horatio, indeed R&G and Marcella are all film students. He thinks in film (actually video), and all his ruminations are cast in visual terms, often in the context of video, even a Blockbuster store. The final chorus is in video, and much of the action is seen through surveillance cameras. The play-within-the-play is a homemade video, with clear film-school effects.

This is not as clever as it could have been in the hands of a master. (Or when the goals are exceedingly simple as in `American Beauty.') But it is an honest attempt to cast the reflexive depth of the play in cinematic terms.

Sam Shepard is the best King Hamlet's ghost I have ever seen. He is a solid blessing.

This is a respectable effort, and deserves to be viewed if not celebrated.
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Uncomprehending...
missfoley16 August 2001
First of all, this is a beautiful film. It does however, have many weak points. It is very reminiscent of the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet; but somehow it is not as powerful. Ethan Hawke bursts of adequatulence as Hamlet, but nothing more. Although he says his lines with true emotion, it doesn't seem like he understands what he is saying. The only true Shakespearin actor is Liev Schreiber (you'll recognize him from Scream. His portrayal of Laertes helps the viewer understand what is going on in the film; while the other actors manage only to confuse. It doesn't help that a great portion of the play; including the famous graveyard scene; are left out. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, modernization of Hamlet doesn't work well, at least not in this adaptation. Switching from swords to guns changes the plotline too much. For someone who hasn't read Hamlet, or seen another version, it might be hard to understand the plotline, especially becuase the audio tack is poor and muddled by traffic and background noise. On the other hand, those that are familiar with Hamlet may be disappointed with the performances and with the editing of the play. Although it may be a little long, I would recommend the Kenneth Branagh version of Hamlet to someone who wants to see a true vision of what Hamlet could be.
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8/10
Innovative film
deming27 December 2000
Shakespeare has arrived in the moneyed world of New York, and I think he likes it. What particularly struck me about this film was some of the imagery and devices. Reflections are everywhere, not just in Hamlet's soliloquies: glass windows, mirrors, water, even the video screen. If we exist only in the eyes of others (J-P Sartre), then everything in this film is granted existence, even Hamlet's madness, because we see it through so many media and reflections. Hamlet's "play within a play" becomes a film, not something ephemeral, but a strip of celluloid that will last past his death, just as this play has survived so many centuries after Shakespeare's time.
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Either Almereyda or the Miramax really missed the boat with this one.
lancer041028 May 2004
Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Karl Geary; directed by Michael Almereyda, loosely based on the play by the Immortal William Shakespeare This is not your father's Hamlet, and really not your Hamlet either.

Set in modern day New York City, this adaptation by director Michael Almereyda attempts to blend the all time classic with a modern day lifestyle, while retaining the traditional speech and lines of the play. Unintentionally comical for those familiar with the piece, it actually is able to combine the two worlds of twentieth century New York and sixteenth century Denmark quite well.

However this is also the movies downfall, as only with a working knowledge of the classic are you able to understand the modern work, otherwise it is completely incoherent, with vital cogs of the plot missing.

Denmark is no longer a country but now a corporation, Cladius (MacLachlan) not a King, but now a CEO. Computers and video are now the norm, as this is how the movie begins. Polonius (Murray) is both the best character and also probably miscast, as he would have done much better in a cameo as the gravedigger, a scene that is deleted entirely! This gem and other scenes were deleted in order to pare down the length of the film, while attempting to preserve all major known lines. Yet, as earlier mentioned, for those who do not have a strong background in the classical work, you will be quickly lost. The so-called 'fluff' that the producers thought Shakespeare used actually made the tale so brilliant, relevant, and understandable. The modern work is none of these, only an ancillary piece for those with a vast Hamlet knowledge.

The major scenes are also greatly adapted to fit the environment, mostly to no effect. Most of the movie occurs in high-rise apartments or board rooms, giving it an awkward type of feel. With Hamlet (Hawke) and Ophelia (Stiles) being constantly watched in a city such as New York, i thought I was observing a Mafia film, as indeed that is what the Denmark corporation felt like, killing of Old Hamlet and all. Maybe that adaptation could've been a better fit, for the reduced length also makes the piece less-watchable, and much more bland with none of the intrigue. The murder of Polonius in the laundromat, Old Hamlet being seen on a security camera, and Ophelia committing suicide in a Guggenheim fountain just does not have the same feel, something is definitely missing.

In all this film likely misses both it's core audience and lacks the mass-market appeal that it was trying for. If a full four-hour version was released word-for-word of the original work, it would likely be a cult classic, as it has the makings of a strong work. In all honesty, how can such a great work like Hamlet be lacking if shown in its entirety? In the attempt for a higher box-office, the two hour version has no soul. If you find yourself in Blockbuster and face the same question as Hamlet, of whether this version is 'To be or not to be' showing on your TV that night, most likely it is not to be. However, if you are a teenage girl and enjoy looking at Ethan Hawke, or a Shakespeare aficionado who wishes to laugh at some unintentional humor, this could be the ticket. A shame that more did not come out of such a great cast, interesting premise, and mother of all base material in Shakespeare. Either Almereyda or the Miramax really missed the boat with this one.
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7/10
Well, okay, it ain't exactly Olivier, but...............
ween-317 January 2007
any movie that attempts to bring the Shakespeare canon to a new audience has to be allowed fairly wide latitude...so in the age of "Clerks", only right and fitting that we get a taste of Hamlet as a Kevin Smith-type community college slacker...filming from a severely truncated version of the play, this "Hamlet" still manages to provide some clever moments of originality...the "to be or not to be" monologue set in the "action" section of Blockbuster; an Ophelia who betrays Hamlet; the use of speakerphones and faxes to deliver dialog, in lieu of actors on screen...yeah, it's gimmicky...but if this is what it takes to get the Bard to the x and y-genners, then so be it...Joseph Papp would have approved...

that said, there's some interesting takes by Julia Stiles (Ophelia), Diana Venora (the Queen) and Bill Murray (Polonius) on their respective characters...it ain't all style over substance...

so come on, folks...you gave Mel a shot at this, didn't ya? give it a go...
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6/10
Nice try, but not the words don't all come trippingly from all the actors' tongues.
mp-2531 July 2000
Here is the first film version of Hamlet to come along in modern New York. The director's use of New York is fun to watch for this native New Yorker, although how a limo can quickly move from 42nd St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue to 48th St. and Sixth Avenue is beyond me.

But asisde from that, all we care about when we see Hamlet is how is the text handled, by both the director and the cast. The director, Michael Almereyda, has cut into the script and most of the film runs surprising lean for something that runs one hour, fifty-three minutes. His use of short films in the background, speaker phones, TV's and the like run the gambit from ingeneous to "Give me a BREAK!"

The casting however is inconsitent, for which we can certainly blame the director. Ethan Hawke, in the title role, has drive and energy. But if anybody remembers the TV show "The Critic", when they had Keanu Reeves doing Hamlet, then you know what I'm thinking. The words "Dude" and "Whoa" seems ready to break into Hawke's speeches at anytime. The complexity is replaced by a whiny "I'm in pain, but I'm cool" attitude for the bulk of the film and it doesn't really work. The mumbling of at least a fourth of his lines doesn't help either. He works better in silence, brooding.

The silence works even better for Julia Styles as Ophelia. When quiet, the pain of abandonment and loss is heartfelt. Then she opens her mouth, and the lack of a developed character as well as an appalling lack of command of Shakespeare's words is obvious. Ophelia, never mind getting thee to a nunnery, get thee "Beverly Hills, 90210", GO!

Bill Murray veers form earnestness to his Lounge Singer's act from "SNL" when doing Polonius. I know the role was suppose to be for comic relief. But after a while, everything Murray says is funny- intenionally or otherwise.

Kyle McLaughlin, as Claudius, doesn't fare much better. There is little distinction in his line readings, and in the end, he just comes off as a one-trick pony. Diane Verona is marginally better as Gertrude. The attitude is there, as is the pain, but her line readings lack a freshness to them.

The standouts are Sam Sheppard as the Ghost, Steve Zahn and Dechen Thurman as Rosencrnatz & Guildenstern, and especially Liev Schrieber as Laertes. Schrieber in paricularly as the energy, clearity, and believabilty that makes you wonder what if he played Hamlet instead of Schrieber. We probably would have had a better movie.
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4/10
Sadly a mess
sarastro712 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
There has never yet been a Shakespeare movie that took place in the present day which worked well artistically and aesthetically. In opera, modern productions frequently work well, but it's harder with Shakespeare, because he is so poetic that the surroundings need to reflect it, lest they undermine the poetic integrity. The milieu can't be pedestrian, and the words can't be casually and mumblingly delivered. In Almereyda's Hamlet, everything is pedestrian. There are great actors on hand, but they are never given the opportunity to shine. There is no depth of either intellect or comedy here (as Stanley Wells has remarked, Hamlet is the most comical of all the tragedies), and as others have mentioned it is particularly ironic to cast Bill Murray in the role of the play's comic relief character and then have him be serious throughout. Sigh. There is occasional decent acting from Schreiber, Styles and Venora, but I have nothing good to say about the rest. They can do much better, but the director must have failed to inspire them.

The movie is a mess. All right, so it is trying to make some analogous points about a struggling film-maker, but it doesn't work well. To replace the medium of the play with the medium of the film as the thing in which the king's conscience will be caught is not a very interesting point, as plays and movies are so similar anyway.

There were a couple of things I liked. I liked having the "To be or not to be" speech in the "Action" aisle of the video store, because that speech really is much more about action than about death. I also liked how Julia Stiles made it very apparent that the cause of Ophelia's madness was her powerful love for him, which he didn't requite. I don't think this is necessarily the best interpretation of what happens, but at least it is a clear one.

But a main reason the movie is a mess is that the text is so chopped up. Omissions are inevitable lest the movie runs 4 hours, but it should be done with great care. Using the text selectively, and moving it around, always runs the risk of seriously undermining Shakespeare's points and messages, and one therefore needs a tremendously detailed understanding of the text (and its best interpretations) in order to edit it sensibly. Sadly, Almereyda does not possess such understanding.

The movie is not completely awful; it is watchable, but most things about it just aren't very good. The characters often don't speak clearly, which debases (yes, debases!) Shakespeare's language, and the modern surroundings tend to be dull, dull, dull. Of the twelve different Hamlets I have seen on DVD, I'm afraid this one is nothing less than the worst of the lot.

4 out of 10.
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4/10
Hamlet 2000?
TheDragonDane22 June 2015
This is "Hamlet 2000"..... Yes that's what its called. This is basically a modernization of the classic William Shakespeare play with the same title. Sounds like a.....good....idea? Well though it can definitely get pulled off BUT much like the modern day Romeo and Juliet the dialogue is identical to the play from 400 years ago. So there is old English and it doesn't fit at all with the modern day setting. It's incredibly distracting and unfitting. "Modernizing" all the dialogue not even a little bit just doesn't work and you better don't give me the business as a excuse to keep this movie timeless because it's already 15 years old and incredibly out of date. There are fax machines, VHS tapes, and hilarious early 2000s outfits scattered out throughout the movie, it already doesn't hold up.

Unlike the Romeo and Juliet (96) which had a ton of stylized cinematography and pacing Hamlet 2000 is mundane, grey and not fun to look at. The setting is in some generic apartment building witch isn't visually stimulating. Though there is occasional creative shots here and there, they are far and few between. But to be honest Hamlet 2000 was pretty low budget and it shows its measly 2 million dollar budget in the lack of visuals and couldn't get close to the epic scale, beautiful shots, from the Oscar nominated Hamlet 1996

Little skill was used in the directing as most scenes were people sitting around barely moving. Acting for the most part is wooden and unconvincing. Half the lines are barely audible and most people speak in mumble. I felt like the actors had no clue what they were saying. I barely knew what they were saying. The casting wasn't that good either, Ethan Hawke as Hamlet; Bill Murray as Polonius? What? That doesn't sound right and they just phoned in every scene. Julia Stiles's character Ofelia has a scene where she screams in fear comes off as unintentionally hilarious because it looked like she didn't care at all. One take seems like most they ever did and it makes the movies genre to be a "Thriller" to be underwhelming.

The respect for the source material could be taken as offensive. The famous "To Be or Not To Be" speech is filmed in a blockbuster while Ethan Hawke has the goofiest outfit imaginable. Nice product placement there buddy! Then all of a sudden you see Hamlet 2000 watching the actual Hamlet on TV? Wh-what?! How does that even work? Just imagine if its Back to the Future 2 and in it the main characters are seen watching Back to the Future 1 on television. It shouldn't even be in the same universe.

The play Hamlet puts on is changed to a pretentious "The Ring" like VHS tape though I kind of like that scene. Sound mixing is muffled a bit though it could've been the VHS copy I was watching. But there was barely any music in the movie when there was it was incredibly generic. There's a scene that takes place in a party and the characters are still mumbling to each other while blaring music is playing. How do they hear each other? This could be the fault of some mediocre editing which has some flashbacks or visions that don't really add to the film at all.

This is one of the shorter Hamlet movies to get released just running less than 2 hours which is definitely useful if you wanted a quick summary of the story. And its not a horrible film its definitely watchable and its pretty innocent experiment. When it was released it was well received surprisingly reaching a 70/100 on Metacritic it hasn't aged well however. Hamlet 2000 is still fun to poke at with a group of people. But still there are tons of other adaptions of Hamlet that should be checked out like the 1948 and 1996 ones. Hamlet 2000 gets a 4/10
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5/10
There is not a single ray of hope for this Hamlet
eammcl4 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Hawke's Hamlet is suffering from major clinical depression, and the film reflects this, meaning that watching it gives you some symptoms of major clinical depression, such as exhaustion, loss of willpower, and desire to end it all and just go to sleep. While the film was objectively excellent and the tone incredibly well conveyed, I feel it was the wrong tone for a movie this length. It made it difficult to finish, because it was so utterly hopeless and depressing. The adaptation itself was good, however. The overall sense I got was not so much a scenic update (Denmark to New York) as a cultural one. Ethan Hawke's Hamlet is American; were he transposed to modern England he would be different, and different still if he were French (most obviously by a clearly improved sense of fashion--that hat needs to go). One of the reviews on Netflix described the movie's Ophelia as "a brooding adolescent" rather than "the classical indecisive waif". I found this description to apply to the movie as a whole, and not just Ophelia. Ethan Hawke's Hamlet is angsty, and there's no way around it. He's petulant and selfish and the very picture of the modern American adolescent male. He cares only for himself, and is insane in the sense of being so depressed he's lost touch with reality. He spends hours upon hours watching and making bad-quality videos (as a side note, why are movies in movies always so pixelated with ludicrously bad resolution, and why are they always strongly tinted green or blue? Don't any fictional characters have HDTV?). Holed up in his room with his own little mind in place of a world, it's no wonder he goes off the deep end and starts trying to kill people.

It was hard to feel any empathy for Hamlet; while he was doubtlessly suffering, he used this as a license to wallow in self-pity. I actually found myself siding with Claudius and his mother. Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship, on the other hand, was very well done. I wish the movie had expanded more on it.

Overall, this is a well-done film, but slow and difficult to stick with.

As a final note, I felt the R-rating was undeserved; the only justification I could find for it was the relentlessly depressing tone.
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2/10
What a terrible film!
web1-66-81472329 May 2011
Really. This is a load of crock. The only market I can see for this is perhaps high-school students who really can't get a grip on Shakespeare's text. If you're hoping for a movie that stands on its own merits, or, alternately a Shakespeare text done well in feature film format you're bound to be very disappointed. In fact, you're bound to be disappointed no matter what. Unless of course, you have an all-blinding respect for one of the many famous lead actors. Maybe, just maybe, then you might have enjoyed it. As I'm sure many have. Perhaps a more apt title for this film might be "Hamlet - the guy who really got upset because the action section at Blockbuster was simply too limited".
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A good film... but not necessarily good Shakespeare!
nkbahar6 February 2001
I consider myself a bit of a Shakespeare purist and so put off seeing this film for quite a while. I really wish I'd seen it sooner. All the other comments here about the mangling of the language, cutting of the script to an almost incomprehensible extent, the kind of grungey contrivedness of the whole thing etc etc, are all true, but at the same time the film has little glimmers of something more. The film must be one of the shortest Hamlets ever, and moves along at real speed. The cinematography is beautiful and the juxtaposing of modern images with the text (eg Hamlet's soliloquy being performed whilst he watches James Dean, the rebel without a cause) throws up (almost in spite of itself) some interesting ideas of how the director considers Hamlet. The modern feel works surprisingly well (although it *does* occassionally jar), and throws up a lot of the themes in Hamlet as being particularly relevant today.

The acting is all okay, with a few amazing exceptions -- Liev Schrieber as Laertes really stands out, and Julia Stiles is good too. Kyle Maclachlan makes a very sinister Claudius, and Ethan Hawke is okay, although I couldn't work out whether his Hamlet was pretending to be mad or really was, but this film really belongs to the supporting cast who are all pretty sound.

Good, if you're in the mood for it. If you can't bear the thought of anything being cut or "reinterpreted" in a hit-and-miss way then avoid like the plague!

8 stars (if you like this kind of new Shakespeare) 2 stars (if you believe Hamlet should be done formally, lengthily and in tights)
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4/10
people were not harsh enough on this movie
masonbck5 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
its been a while since I've seen a movie that would qualify to be one of the worst that i have i ever seen. that was until i watched this movie in my English class. without having previously read the play i would not have known what was going on. Hamlet speaks his words so quickly and quietly without emotion that someone unfamiliar with the play would have a very difficult time understanding the plot. key scenes are taken out from the play, and the modern setting does not work in many circumstances. sadly, the best actor in the movie that played Laertes, was not in the movie enough to quite save it. this is not the most coherent or descriptive review, but i suppose that sticks with the theme of this movie. simply put, please save your time and do not watch this movie.
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3/10
Good theory, Bad follow through
billytheshake29 April 2007
For the most part, I didn't like this film. As a Shakespeare scholar, I find it admirable trying to bring Hamlet into contemporary times, since it is a very complicated play.

To be fair, this adaptation does have some strengths. The monolithic coldness of Manhattan set off the isolation and intimidation of the storyline wonderfully. Gertrude and Claudius's affection is just shocking enough without being over the top. And Liev Schreiber's performance was quite good, but that's about where my praise stops. This movie is quite choppy, not only in mixing around the order of the scenes, which isn't really that big of a problem, but also in transition between scenes. Hamlet and Ophelia are almost comical in their sheer moodiness and I didn't believe either character as an art student. their angst made me not care at all about what was happening and Hamlet's filming was quite distracting. The acting is generally horrible, especially Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are really just cringe inducing. Many of the characters seem to be miscast and Claudius can't get through a scene without smiling a little multiple times.

Thumbs down.
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4/10
Interesting modernization, mediocre acting, bad sound
Kurt Tappe22 July 2001
This modernization does a superb job of convincing the viewer that the story could take place in modern times; it was less than 5 minutes into the film that I was comfortable with Shakespeare taking place in NYC. What failed, however, was the delivery of the dialogue by actors who didn't seem involved. Hawke especially seemed bored with his character and does nothing to convince us that Hamlet was tortured with his father's death, his mother's remarriage, his love for Ophelia (which is never explained), and his own mortality. Instead he comes across as a spoiled brat overwhelmed by his trip to the big city and his inability to have things his own way. That such powerful dialogue as Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy was so lost is not a compliment to the filmmaker. We simply can't identify or sympathize with Hamlet, so the story loses most of its impact. Surprisingly, it's Bill Murray's performance as Polonius that steals the film, making us wish he had more scenes. Julia Stiles is also convincing as Ophelia. But their efforts aren't enough to save this film. It is also true, as others have written, that this film's audio transfer to tape was poorly done; you will find yourself adjusting your TV's volume frequently. The lack of enunciation by Hawke and Shepard doesn't help either. (Also, Shakespeare shouldn't be performed over a speakerphone.) Give this film a try if you're a fan of the bard who wants to see an interesting interpretation, but be ready to provide your own enthusiasm motivation for the characters who won't do it for you. A "4" out of "10".
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3/10
Thank God I'm not alone
CanEHdian Pride25 May 2001
As I shut this movie off half way through I had a feeling that perhaps Shakespeare was a bit over my head and I was missing something that others would have gotten. I guess my feelings mirrored many others as I read through the user comments.

This movie was horrible. The entire tone of the movie is a depress fest and all of the comic relief scenes which are vital to the original work are omitted. I was expecting to see a Hamlet who was "mad" in the crazy sense of the word much like portrayed by Mel Gibson. Unless I missed it during my intermittent naps during the first part of the film I don't even think Hamlet talked about putting on a mask as to appear mad to the others like he does in the original work. Instead he is just a depressed, whining, toque wearing movie junkie that is a complete bore.

Liev Schieber in his limited time on screen was dynamite and I was hoping to see that kind of fire out of Hamlet instead of the hum drum attitude that he possessed in the time I wasted on this film.

To give you an idea of how bad this film was....I actually said to myself less then half way through: "Turn it off, this is painful to watch" and 30 minutes later that's just what I did. A total bore.
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It didn't work for me
yeadur11 March 2001
New York, 2000, and Polonius telling his daughter Ophelia that Hamlet is

too princely for her, while Laertes goes on about her 'chaste treasure'?

Far better to have set it in the real Denmark, say 20 years or more ago.

Still, Maclachnan, Venora & Shepard acquit themselves well and Julia

Stiles is an extraordinarily moving Ophelia (and I've seen dozens). The

final duel is a mess and a muddle, but the presage of Ophelia's suicide

in the swimming pool is masterly. I've no idea how Hamlet, Rosencrantz &

Guildernstern got to England - did they use the QEII? - nor how Hamlet

escaped thence, though of course it would be dead easy these day. The

Baz Luhrmann 'Romeo & Juliet' worked for me, but not, alas, this: but as

a Shakespeare completist I had t
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10/10
excellent! One of the best movies I've seen this year!
joodeeth13 May 2000
Hamlet is a truly exciting movie. I took and nine year old and seven year old to see it, and afterwards they retold me the basic story and COMPLETELY understood it. Mad props to director Almereyda for having such strong visuals that also told the story. It is a great introduction to Shakespeare for young people who just can't dig the old "British" f***s in tights doing Shakespeare. The acting was terrific. I hope old stodgey Shakespeare fans will open their minds to these refreshing and innovative takes on the characters, such as how Bill Murray did Polonius. I totally agree with Elvis Mitchell of N.Y.Times in his review of Bill Murray. Ethan Hawke was perfect as Hamlet. Julia Stiles was really engaging, especially her flip-out scene at Guggenheim. Sam Shepard and Dianne Venora were brilliant. A must see.
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3/10
Hamlet-Lite
Director Michael Almerevda wanted to make "Hamlet" more accessible by relocating the play to modern corporate America. By necessity, he is forced to cut the subplots which make this such a rich play. What is left is less than what you get reading "Cliff Notes."

The performances range from the uninspired to simply amateurish. Ethan Hawke has his moments as Hamlet, but overall puts nothing into the role. The same can be said of Kyle MacLachlan's Claudius. As Polonius, Bill Murray acts as though he is reading his lines from cue cards. As Ophelia, Julia Stiles acts as if this were a high school production. Only Sam Shepard in his brief appearance makes an impression.

My recommendation for "Hamlet" is that you stick with the Olivier and Branagh versions.
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I didn't like it
OliviaF14 February 2003
I only liked two things about this film: 1) The performance by Kyle McLachlan as Claudius and 2) The play within the play.

But first, let me say from the outset that on the whole, this version of Hamlet was flat and uninspired. Ethan Hawke practically croaked his lines all the way through which rendered much of the poetic dialogue in the play as dull and meaningless. Secondly, the director tried so hard to be creative with the modern surroundings, and yet it did not gel in this movie. WHY in God's name would Hamlet and Laeters duel in a swordfight in a modern day setting? WHY would a country such as England execute two innocent citizens due to a message in a laptop? And why is it that in practically EVERY Hamlet movie I've seen, including this one, does Horatio just stand off to the side with a disinterested look on his face and not show shock and emotion when Hamlet is dying? Everyone just seems to stand around staring at the dying character.

Reciting "To be or not to be" in a blockbuster video shop completely misses the point. Sure, in this movie it was Hamlet's world of movies and violence, but it failed to really show what was going on in his mind. We rarely get to see his anger or his confusion or his sharp intellect which was the essence of Hamlet, instead we get this grunge brooding portrait ala Reality Bites type character.

Kudos should go to Kyle McLachlan for not falling into the trap of delivering his lines without meaning - he delivered every line flawlessly and made it sound so convincing in a modern setting. His version of Claudius as the charming yet smarmy businessman with devilish like intentions was probably the best version of Claudius I have seen for a long while.
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9/10
The best filmed version of Hamlet yet.
caleb.bullen22 May 2000
I cannot recommend this film enough. Although I can see where the abridged text might put purists off of this very stylistic modern interpretation one of the bards most famous plays, I found it to be the most poetic and honest cinematic Hamlet yet. Ethan Hawke plays hamlet much like he plays his other roles, with over sensitivity, intelligence, and a strong sense of futility. His talents are aptly used in this version of Hamlet where instead of seeming like an ancient warrior prince Hamlet seems to be a fairly normal, if rich, art student caught up in an impossible circumstance.

The acting overall is worth noting as is the ingenious use of technology. However since the films praises have already been well sung on those counts by others, I'll mention how the film felt. It took me a little while to suspend disbelief. As the film establishes itself with mentions of "Denmark" corp. and "Elsinore" condos it leaves you very aware that you are watching an unusual production of the famous play. Likewise, at the begining of the movie I found myself identifying all of the actors like a tourist, "That's Bill Murray, Hey is that Kyle McLaughlin?" etc... but it didn't take as long as one might think to become totally caught up things. And I did become completely caught up even though I'm fairly familiar with the play. The best way I can describe it is to say that in other versions of this and the bards other plays one is often more familiar with the speeches and the poetry than with the characters as living breathing people. Hamlet 2000 made me feel genuine hatred for Claudius and sorrow for Hamlet. The Elizabethan English with American accents and cadence seemed more natural to the ear than the bold theatrical speak that most Shakespearian films seem to think is a requisite.

I think the people who take their literature like medicine because it is good for them will be sorely dissapointed by how enjoyable this movie is but in my opinion it is an excellent balance between the beauty of Shakespeare's text as text and the exciting story contained within.
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1/10
The worst version ever...
jt_turtle30 April 2001
This must be the worst modern interpretation of a Shakespearean play that I have ever seen. As with most film versions Fortinbras was glossed over. Bill Murray's Polonius, while a good try, just was not up to it. I kept seeing visions of SNL. Ethan Hawke's Hamlet left much to be desired. He reminded me of the Ricky Fitts character from American Beauty, with his video camera recording every aspect of his life. Over all it was not worth the $3.50 I spent at Blockbuster.
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1/10
Strange interpretation of Hamlet
lightwork197825 June 2006
I didn't like this movie for many reasons, there really wasn't any excitement in the film, Ethan Hawke's character seemed as if he were on Valium, hamlet's character was enraged, Ethan hawke wasn't. Although Ethan Hawke is my favorite actor and his presence on screen is mystical, but i didn't like this film. I preferred previous hamlet versions, i.e., Kenneth Branagh's hamlet and Laurence Olivier's. I've noticed that Diane venora likes to play Shakespearean characters, well, she graduated from the Juilliard school. I would have loved to seen Ethan hawke play a more enraged hamlet, which would have made the film more exciting to watch, and the other characters too. Well, it was a strange interpretation by Michael Almereyda. I wouldn't recommend this film.
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10/10
Shakespeare's tragedy of a son's vengence for the murder of his father, the king of Denmark..
haashold22 April 2001
I thought this film was absolutley brilliant. Almereyda, so captured Shakespeare's profound insight into human nature and motivation. I have NEVER liked modern productions of Shakespeare, either on film or the stage. But this vision was extraordianary in illustrating that Shakespeare's observations are truly timeless, and he knew far, far more about human nature than Freud or Jung or any modern psychologist!

Almereyda's direction was superb. His Hamlet was so contemporary .... so the sulking, modern, slacker, malcontent, and it captured the spirit of Hamlet beautifully (as did Ethan Hawke's rather astonishing performance). In addition, every word Ophelia uttered, sounded so like an overwrought, emotional, girl of this age....and yet not of word of The Bard's was changed. Almereyda's use of video, modern branding and icons, were also brilliant....and he used the wonderful Carter Burwell to score his film. There is so much more to say, but, you get the picture. I loved it, as did my 13 year old son. And, as "brevity is the soul of wit," (Polonius) I will end by simply saying......bravo Almereyda!
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