The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
I had a professor in college who knew everything there was to know about "Romeo and Juliet." Maybe he knew too much. One day in class he said he would give anything to be able to read it again for the first time. I feel the same way about "Hamlet." I know the play so well by now, have seen it in so many different styles and periods and modes of dress, that it’s like listening to a singer doing an old standard. You know the lyrics, so the only possible surprises come from style and phrasing.
The style of Franco Zeffirelli’s "Hamlet," with Mel Gibson in the title role, is robust and physical and - don't take this the wrong way - upbeat. Gibson doesn't give us another Hamlet as Mope, a melancholy Dane lurking in shadows and bewailing his fate. We get the notion, indeed, that there was nothing fundamentally awry with Hamlet until everything went wrong in his life, until his father died and his mother married his uncle with unseemly haste. This is a prince who was healthy and happy and could have lived a long and active life, if things had turned out differently.
Part of that approach may come from Zeffirelli, whose famous film version of "Romeo and Juliet" also played on the youth and attractiveness of its characters, who were bursting with life and romance until tragedy separated them. The approach also may come from Gibson himself, the most good-humored of contemporary stars, whose personal style is to deflect seriousness with a joke, and who doesn't easily descend into self-pity and morose masochism. He gives us a Hamlet who does his best to carry on, until he is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of events.
Zeffirelli sets his film in a spectacular location - a castle on an outcropping of the stark coast in northern Scotland, perched on top of a rock nearly surrounded by the sea. There is mud here, and rain and mist, and the characters sometimes seemed dragged down by the sheer weight of their clothing. This is a substantial world of real physical presence, fleshed out by an unusual number of extras; we have the feeling that this throne rules over real subjects, instead of existing only in Shakespeare’s imagination.