Thursday, January 16, 2014


Depending upon your perspective, Michael Almereyda’s 2000 film adaptation of Hamlet is either a playful postmodern remixing of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, or a mewling abortion that deserves to be locked away in a lead-lined vault far below the surface of the earth. Relocating the play in modern-day New York, Almereyda casts Ethan Hawke as the titular character and disenfranchised heir to the vast fortune of the Denmark Corporation and Julia Stiles as his love interest/bohemian art student in hammer pants, Ophelia. The technology behind the PCS was crafted with the express purpose of answering life’s unanswerable question, so we look forward to determining, with indisputable scientific accuracy, whether Hawke’s Hamlet is a masterpiece or a master piece of shit.

  • Shakespeare’s greatest soliloquies, reimagined as an angsty teen’s vlog. = -7pts 
  • Business Facts We Learned from Hamlet: When the CEO of a major corporation dies, the executive position passes on to the next oldest male relation who marries his widow. = -2pts 
  • But that’s okay because King Claudius is played by Special Agent Dale Cooper. = +15pts 
  • ‘90s fashion alert: Hamlet takes to the streets in his finest mourning stocking cap and Robert Smith eyeliner. = +4pts 
  • Horatio arrives with a young Trixie from Deadwood to tell Hamlet about his father’s ghostly apparition. = +4pts 
  • Thanks to Michael Almereyda, we now know that the late King Hamlet was only trying to tell Horatio and Marcella to drink more Pepsi One. = +3pts
  • Julia Styles looks like a Frank Quietly drawing of a woman. = +12pts 
  • Bill Murray totally Bill Murray’s his command to Laertes, “The time invites you; go!” = +5pts 
  • Is Hamlet going to spend this entire movie in a fetal position and a stocking cap? = -9pts 
  • Hamlet’s ghost dad demonstrates a “bad touch” on his son while explaining the circumstances of his murder. = -17pts 
  • For the daughter of a top advisor to a king (CEO? We don’t even know anymore…), Ophelia sure lives in one shitty apartment building. = -4pts 
  • Hamlet delivers Ophelia a love note that looks like it was folded up in the heel of his shoe, Marty Funkhouser style. = -3pts 
  • Bill Murray shows up with balloons to cock block him, though. = +10pts 
  • ‘90s fashion alert: Ophelia’s Hammer pants. = +18pts 
  • Hamlet delivers the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy in the Action aisle in a Blockbuster. = +50pts 
  • Rosencrantz’s high kick = +10pts 
  • Shakespearean dialogue was made to be shouted over pounding club music. = +3pts 
  • Hamlet watches Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet as the movie jackknifes over at the waist, climbs up its own ass, and back out its mouth. = +15pts 
  • In order to probe Hamlet’s sudden, apparent madness, Ophelia returns his old correspondences, all of which she keeps in her Smashing Pumpkins boxed set. = +3pts 
  • And suddenly, it dawns on us—the moodiness, the solipsistic introspection, the erratic behavior in his romantic relationships—Hamlet is basically just a 16th century version of Troy Dyer, making Ethan Hawke perhaps the single most inspired casting choice in all recorded history. = +37pts 
  • ‘90s tech alert: Hamlet’s “Get Thee to a Nunnery” speech delivered via answering machine. = +5pts 
  • ‘90s fashion alert: Ophelia’s cornrows. = +6pts 
  • Instead of a play within a play, Hamlet subjects his friends and family to a douchey video art project. = -11pts 
  • Upon viewing this reimagined version of The Mousetrap, Special Agent Dale Cooper staggers to his feet and flees the auditorium. Although, it’s hard to say whether this is an admission of guilt or if he just couldn’t feign anymore interest in his stepson’s instillation. = +6pts (He should have just said that you had to return some video tapes. That always works for us.) 
  • Hamlet’s got a gun. = +25pts 
  • Hamlet interrupts his sexually charged scene with his mother long enough to shoot Bill Murray in the face. = -10pts 
  • ‘90s tech/fashion alert: Ophelia brings back the Hammer pants and a fistful of Polaroids for her big scene. = +18pts 
  • ‘90s tech alert: Hamlet-murder rap session between Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laertes is interrupted by a fax. = +2pts 
  • In place of his soliloquy, the gravedigger sings a few bars of “All Along the Watchtower.” = -4pts 
  • Showing up to your ex-girlfriend’s funeral and challenging her brother to a grief-off. = -10pts 
  • When you were the one who murdered their father and drove her to suicide in the first place. = -19pts 
  • Also does HAMLET really have any room to lecture anyone about what constitutes an appropriate display of grief? = -6pts 
  • Hamlet’s ghost dad watching Horatio’s girlfriend while she sleeps. = -3pts 
  • Going through all the trouble of staging a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, only to finish it by having Laertes pull a gun and shoot Hamlet in the gut. = +14pts 
  • In keeping with all good Shakespeare tragedies, the play ends with a pile of bodies big enough to rival the Breaking Bad finale. = +20pts 
  • Announcing Fortinbras’s ascension to the throne of Denmark via newscast. = +5pts
Total Score = +205pts
Available on: Netflix streaming

Well, the nanobots can’t lie, folks. Hamlet 2000 is officially a good movie. However you feel about Almereyda and Hawke’s interpretation of the central character, you can’t deny that it’s a reading that makes sense from at least a surface-level interpretation of the play. Yet even more importantly, it’s the film’s preoccupation with our own perception of Hamlet—with the various interpretations of the play over the centuries in film, music, and other media—that makes this such giddily enjoyable deconstruction.

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

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