This latest incarnation of the Bard’s great tragedy is set in modern-day Manhattan. Although screenwriter/director Michael Almereyda has edited the play, the poetic verbiage remains intact. Denmark, the country, is now Denmark, Inc., the multimedia conglomerate, and the prince is now an independent filmmaker who roams Blockbuster’s aisles, moaning “To be or not to be…” After the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him, demanding vengeance, then disappearing into a Pepsi machine, the melancholy son sets out to destroy his adulterous mother and scheming uncle.
“Hamlet” is a tragic story, complete with love, hate, revenge, indecision, loss, and much violence. Today’s audience may enjoy the up-centuried look, but its star left me cold. Hawke, renowned for his James Dean sullenness, is a fine actor, but here finds it difficult to muster any expression beyond blank and blanker. Due to the violent imagery and theme of revenge, we are unable to recommend it for family viewing. Oft filmed, “Hamlet” has never been done better than in the 1948 British version, written and directed by Laurence Olivier.