Alas, poor Mel
Mel Gibson, I salute you. Not many Hollywood heavyweights would have the courage to struggle through the entirety of Hamlet despite not appearing to understand a lot of the words. I also admire your fortitude in keeping up your textbook 'madman's stare,' with flickering pupils to communicate the depth of your madness, and the torment, oh! the torment, of your inner soul. Is it any wonder that Zeffirelli decided you were the man for the job after seeing your deep and resonant performance in Lethal Weapon? (Sadly, I didn't make that up – see the IMDB).
Oh Mel, you are a braver man than I (not least because you are actually male), to star in one of the most ridiculous adaptations of Hamlet I've seen. There must be something badly wrong when four Lit students can't keep from laughing about once every ten minutes in the middle of a tragedy.
The gist of it was basically this. Ooh pretty castle, ooh mist, ooh Mel rolling his eyes, ooh castle, mist, fade out, eye rolling, ghost! ghost!, fadeout, rolling, soliliquy, mist, fade out, castle Mel castle castle Mel, ghost!, pointy swords, pretty castle, mist mist mist and Mel, and Mel and Mel and fade. It was …deep.
Seriously though, has there ever been a time when Hollywood has 'done' Shakespeare and the results have been less than painful? (I can't count Romeo + Juliet because Luhrman is Australian and this colours his work.) I just hate it when they get blockbuster actors to fill roles (and cinemas) who don't appear to have any idea of what they're saying. They drone in a monotone, and seem to ignore all of the cadences and rhythm of the language. Yes, you may look pretty in body armour toting a gun, but that doesn't help you much with a two page soliliquy in Elizabethan English about the frailty of existence.
Give me four hours of Kenneth Branagh any day. Even if it is four hours. I felt like half my life had vanished by the time Mel had finally eye-rolled and muttered his way to the credits. However, I'm sure if I fancied Mel Gibson, I would feel differently, and that's probably why it did well at the cinema. He does do a rather nice line in doublets and shiny sword waving. But if I'd been Ophelia faced with a gloomy wall-eyed Mel I would have buggered off to that nunnery long ago and just got the hell out of it, frankly.