David Tennant and Patrick Stewart star in a Hamlet production with a modernized look and feel, and if not for the fact that the praise had already come in like a landslide for the stage interpretation, this filmed effort would probably be getting a lot more attention.
While a variety of other productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company have made their way to DVD, they are often very directly filming of the stage entity itself, and while there is not exactly a full film made out of this one, it is filmed on location.
Though Stewart won the Olivier award for his portrayal of Claudius, it’s David Tennant that not only shines through with an amazing performance, but brings the character to a new era. It may be that he brings fans from Doctor Who, but it’s something much more than that. Delivering from (and obviously to) a new generation, Tennant may be saying the same words, but his style and approach are a different beast than traditional norms.
Almost a form of analysis and interpretation built into the act, Tennant is somehow talking about Hamlet using the play’s own words. However good the stuffy English teacher may be (“stuffy” in the “by definition” sense), there is something different going on when the cool kid suddenly says, “No, really. This is good stuff. Here, check this out,” and that’s what Tennant manages.
In fact, Stewart pulls off something similar, but not nearly to the same degree. He is also exceptional in his role, and quite deserving of the award and any amount of praise, but he is clearly a bit more “old school” in his vision of the role.
There is good reason that the stage version was met with nearly unprecedented excitement and acclaim, and it all comes through wonderfully here. You may need to let the production value slide to a certain degree, but not nearly as much as you might expect.
As powerful, contemporary, and relevant as anything you could watch today, The Bard, quite simply, has rarely been this good.
Bonus Features –
Both the Blu-Ray and standard DVD release have only a commentary track as bonus. By Gregory Doran, Sebastian Grant, and Chris Seager, the track is actually quite good, but really focuses only the making of, and then spends a lot of the time on translating from stage to film. Surprisingly entertaining, it’s still less than what is probably hoped for by those who became instant fans.