By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I have only seen one cinematic versiib of Shakespeare’s acclaimed play, but it is a bit of a loose adaptation of the Bard’s work. The 1957 Akira Kurosawa film Throne of Blood takes Shakespeare story and sets it in feudal Japan. Because this film is a Japanese translation and interpretation, Kurosawa and his screenwriters obviously didn’t maintain the language of the original play. Nevertheless, I consider this version not only one of Kurosawa’s best films, but a much more exciting and fulfilling one compared with this 2015 version that maintains the vernacular.
This latest version of the Scottish play seems to remain faithful to the eloquent writing of Shakespeare, but is definitely lacking when it comes to the production as a whole. Director Justin Kurzel doesn’t attempt anything stylistically bold like director Baz Luhrmann whose modernized version of Romeo and Juliet embraces a glitzy MTV style to appeal to younger generations. In all honesty, though, Shakespeare adaptations do not need to be heavily emblazoned in style to have an impact on their audiences. Still, Kurzel’s production of Macbeth is sorely missing some style and comes across as flat and dull.
Michael Fassbender stars as Macbeth, a general in Scotland’s army whose political ambitious get the best of him. Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), not only shares that ambition for her husband, but also fuels it to the point of lustful greed. The husband and wife are a match made in hell and their hunger for power drives them to the point of betrayal against King Duncan (David Thewlis). Once in power, King Macbeth and his Queen are haunted by their treacherous actions and never really get to enjoy the riches of their crimes.
With a screenplay adapted by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso, Kurzel’s film most certainly disappoints, though it does have its moments. The film starts off promisingly with an epic and moderately stylish battle, reminiscent of films like Braveheart and 300. The movie struggles when it gets to its more dramatic scenes where Kurzel’s over-simplicity makes for dull and snooze-worthy cinema. Simplicity can work, depending on the content of the script. The perfect example of simplicity that pays off is Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing which relies mostly on dialogue and acting.
In this film, however, this approach doesn’t work at all. Kurzel relies mostly on the talents of his lead actors alone and this film obviously needs more. As talented as Fassbender and Cotillard are, I sat growing increasingly bored and grew less interested. The film does begin to really take off and become intriguing just past the middle and kept me engrossed until the end. The movie feels like two different directors worked on the film with most of the middle section being lackluster. The movie does have a talented cast, but their performances alone do not succeed in making this a better film.
Fassbender and Cotillard have some truly amazing and magical moments on screen. These actors can pull off Shakespearean characters beautifully. Still, I just don’t know what it is about that middle section of the film. Even their scenes during this part of the movie seem to lack passion. The also gifted supporting cast consists of David Thewlis, Paddy Considine, Kayla Fallon, Lynn Kennedy, Seylan Baxter, and more.
Often more is less when it comes to movies. That is except when the film is already lacking. As beautiful as the production and design of the film is, the movie needed more punch, energy, and a director who had a more exciting vision for the production. Though not a horrible film, this 2015 version of Macbeth is mostly mediocre and in need of much more.