Hamlet (1996)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Tragedy  |   Release Date - Dec 25, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 242 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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The first cinematic of Hamlet to retain virtually all of its text, Kenneth Branagh's lofty, often maddeningly overdirected film version runs a full four hours, yet seems to make less of an impact than previous film versions featuring Laurence Olivier and Mel Gibson. Lush-looking, and filmed on spectacular sets, this incarnation paints the Dane as a brooding, simpering brat (especially as interpreted by star Branagh), making the central affliction involving his lascivious mother and stepfather less emotionally felt than it should be. The casting is also a serious gamble, with its cavalcade of international stars that range from the inspired (Julie Christie and a wonderfully robust Charlton Heston) to the insipid (Jack Lemmon and Robin Williams seem highly out of place). Typical of his recent style, Branagh uses so many crane shots and fanciful tricks that the story gets lost in the overkill. In fact, there are points when the film feels like a musical because of its grandiose structure (one he would employ in his later all-singing, all-dancing adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost). In a highly criticized move, the Academy nominated the writer-director for Best Adapted Screenplay, despite the fact that film contains virtually all of William Shakespeare's original printed matter, thus suggesting there was almost nothing to adapt.