Of all the plays that William Shakespeare wrote, Hamlet is by far my favorite. Filled with suspense, drama, violence, a ghost, and many a soliloquy, Hamlet’s trials and tribulations with his incestuous mother and uncle, dead father, crazy girlfriend, and (un)trustworthy friends continue to resonate with audiences today.
The film and TV landscape has been populated with many, many, many versions Shakespeare’s drama. Sir Laurence Olivier, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, and Ethan Hawke have starred in the title role. Disney’s The Lion King has allusions to the story, and several PBS and BBC productions have been produced utilizing this 400-year-old Shakespearean masterwork.
Now, The Royal Shakespeare Company has produced a wonderful contemporary version of the play, which stars David Tennant in the title role and Patrick Stewart as his sinister Uncle Claudius. Fans of Doctor Who will definitely recognize Tennant who has portrayed The Doctor on the series for the past five seasons. He is amazing as Hamlet, delivering a fresh and energized interpretation of the role to the screen.
If you don’t know the name you know the face and the voice of Patrick Stewart. Whether as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men films or as CIA Deputy Director Avery Bullock on American Dad, Stewart is one the finest and superb actors anyone could ask for.
His range is remarkable, his talent top-notch, and his role as Claudius only continues to prove how great and actor this man is. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the episode of Extras (starring Ricky Gervais) featuring Mr. Stewart, I highly recommend it!
Director Gregory Doran has taken his stage version and adapted it to the screen. Both Tennant and Stewart were in the play production, so it’s exciting to see them reprise their roles here. Doran has done an excellent job bringing the scope and power of the live theater to TV audiences with this 2009 production.
Unlike many film or TV versions of Hamlet, this one is the complete play. That’s right, it’s 182 minutes (a little over three hours). Hardcore Shakespeare fans, such as myself, are grateful for versions that don’t choose for us what should and should not be shown. Like the Kenneth Branagh version, this is the total package, and delivers a solid and exciting experience.
Special features include audio commentary Gregory Doran (Director), Sebastian Grant (Producer) and Chris Seager (Cinematographer); there’s also a featurette, Hamlet: Behind the Scenes, which is definitely worth watching.
Hamlet will continue to fascinate and engage audiences for decades to come. If you’ve never found reading Shakespeare interesting, I recommend you check out this version of Hamlet. This version from The Royal Shakespeare Company is highly recommended for fans of Shakespeare, the BBC, or great performances. It’s fantastic.