On Hamlet’s Madness

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In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular character puts on the guise of insanity in order to extract revenge against his murderous Uncle, who took the life of his father. What Hamlet hopes to gain from this faux-madness is ambiguous, seeing as it is an act that draws attention to oneself and one’s actions as opposed to masking it. However, his decision in this is significant to the work as a whole not only becasue it is a driving force of the plot, but because it makes the audience question what Hamlet’s true mental state it and, in turn, whether or not the lengths he goes to for revenge can be perceived as rational or moral.  Hamlet’s “madness”, however, at several points can be perceived as reasonable, due to the instances surrounding it.

One of the first places we see this shine through is in II.II. in which Polonius, the father of Hamlet’s quasi-lover Ophelia, approaches Hamlet with the hope that he will be able to figure out what is ailing him, the strong suspicion being that he is mad over his love for Ophelia. However, Hamlet’s answers are always elusive and enigmatic — he first pretends not to know who Polonius is (“You are a fishmonger.”, II.II.190), makes sexual innuendo about his daughter (“Let her not walk i’ th’ sun.”, playing on “son”, meaning himself  II.II.201), and then insults him under his breath (“These tedious old fools.” II.II.237)  — yet still, even Polonius, it’s pretty clear that this madness is not incoherent enough to be genuine. Polonius even remarks the world-famous lines that vouch for Hamlet’s sanity:

Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” (II.II.223-224)

Hamlet’s guise of craziness here can certainly be described as reasonable to the discerning eye, bboth because he has proved himself so far to be exceedingly sharp-witted and lucid, and because Polonius, in the past scenes, has already proven himself ot be an annoying, overbearing character through his long-winded speeches (see I.III.60-87), and an enemy of Hamlet in that he has easily taken the side of Claudius for personal gain — which therefore makes it reasonable that Hamlet should want to taunt him with this interaction and semi-incoherence. This particular instance of insanity is significant because it is Polonius (and, in turn, Gertrude and Claudius)s first impression of the newly-mad prince, which leads them to set Hamlet up for the meeting with Ophelia, which, like dominoes, sets the plot in motion.

Another case of Hamlet’s “madness” is when he visits Gertrude in her chamber, attacking her and yelling at her for what she did to both him and his true father. This, to the audience, is likely perceived as something that is reasonable and overall just due to the fact that Gertrude, a character who is solely described as traitorous, lustful, and pernicious, is surely deserving of a passionate talking-to about her awful actions. Hamlet’s heightened emotions and almost manic monologuing in this scene feel a little closer to true madness in that he seems to be more pointed and dangerous, yet still — Hamlet has already established himself as being an eccentric, melodramatic, passionate character even before he begins to feign madness (see especially I.II.133-164), which may lead the audience to believe that his words to Gertrude come from a place of sincere yet blunt honesty. This scene is important both because of the slight ambiguity of Hamlet’s mental state — in that we are beginning to wonder whether or not he has truly lost his marbles, or if he is simply finally getting out the words that have been on his heart for the two months that his father has been dead  — and because this is the scene that leads to Claudius’s banishment of Hamlet which, in turn, eventually leads to the death of every major character.

And yet still, I would not describe Hamlet’s actions in Gertrude’s chamber as truly mad, even though they are, at times, rash, foolish, and irrational (i.e., the murder of Polonius, and the fact that he can see his Father’s ghost were Gertrude cannot). Hamlet establishes full well in past soliloquies that he is extremely upset with his mother and her actions, and disapproves largely of her unpure sex life, especially in the aforementioned passage:

… within a month
(Let me not think on ’t; frailty, thy name is woman!),
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears—why she, even she
(O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer!), married with my
uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her gallèd eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good. (I.II.149-163)
 And just as well, in the chamber in which he tells Gertrude of his feelings about her actions, he does not say anything there that he had not already said in the passage above, even using exact wording twice (he calls his father a Hyperion in both the personal monologue in act one, and his lecture to Gertrude in act three, which certainly is a display of mental coherence)! This, I believe, attests to Hamlet’s sanity as well — for indeed, the stress of mental illness that we see in Hamlet (the likeliest being depression and paranoia of a sort) does not fully amount to the other case of true insanity we see in Hamlet, which is Ophelia’s fate.
Finally, the last important instance of “insanity” to be found here is when Hamlet is speaking with his old friends from University, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It has been established in the play that Hamlet truly did love and respect both of them once (see II.II.19-26) — however, this quickly dissolved when he learned that they were both spying on him for Claudius, the enemy of all of Hamlet’s endeavors. Hamlet’s madness in III.IV consists of him essentially yelling at both of them for thinking that they could play upon him and lie to him:
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing
you make of me! You would play upon me, you
would seem to know my stops, you would pluck
out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me
from my lowest note to the top of my compass;
and there is much music, excellent voice, in this
little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ’Sblood,
do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?
Call me what instrument you will, though you can
fret me, you cannot play upon me. (III.II.393-402)
Just as with Polonius in the aforementioned II.II., Hamlet’s words are riddled with puns, wordplay, and other intricacies that betray his method and true thoughts underneath. This can easily be judged as reasonable due to the fact that the audience knows that Halmet thinks the two of them deserve this type of wrath and, as with Polonius and Gertrude, believes they deserve his punishment (verbally and, later, mortally). This “madness”, as mentioned earlier, enhances the idea that Hamlet truly is sane due to the fact that he recognizes people’s motivations with crystal-clear vision, and uses keen literary devices in order to convict their emotions with such clear intelligence and, well, “method” so as to attest to the idea that his wit truly is together.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the audience wonders at many different points if Hamlet is truly sane. This slight ambuigity leads to several different questions that, undoubtedly, Shakespeare poses so that any particular viewre might look inside themselves and decide: is it right or rational to take justice into your own hands? Is revenge ever a just thing to enact? And, of course is cruelty ever reasonable? The meaning fo this work includes each of those questions, and the text itself seems to beg an answer of its audience as they wath Hamlet go about his questionably-maddening business.
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Every Version of Hamlet I’ve Seen (So Far), Ranked from Worst to Best

Article, Movie Review, Uncategorized

It’s not much of a secret that I like Shakespeare. A lot. I talk incessantly about it to those around school, I’m eager to discuss any plays I’m passionate about, I’m president of an embarrassingly tiny Shakespeare club, and who knows how many argumentative papers in favor of the Stratfordian theory I’ve written that my poor English teacher has had to assess. I adore Shakespeare: I’m enamored with his words, his silliness, his morbidness; the way he seems to touch my soul and speak to me although we live hundreds of years apart, the way his stories can still bend and flow to reach modern audiences. Everything about him, to me, is groundbreaking.

And that being said, Hamlet, in itself, is a work of pure genius — but I’m certainly not the first literature enthusiast to argue such a thing. If I started talking about all the reasons why Hamlet is a pure masterpiece, this article would be several thousands of words too long. So we’re not going to state the obvious and talk about why Hamlet is important, but rather: which productions of Hamlet, I feel, are important. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of them in preparation for this article, and although I certainly haven’t reached all of them, I’ve watched a good handful. So please, enjoy this little list of film versions of Hamlet I think are worth pursuing.

(Ten bucks says this is going to be the most pretentious-sounding article I’ve written yet.)

5. Hamlet (2000) dir. Michael Almereyda, starring Ethan Hawke as Hamlet 

I’m not going to hide my dissatisfaction for this movie, so right off the bat I’m going to establish that this movie pretty much does not meet any of my rather low standards for Hamlet productions. In fact, I’m just going to be blunt and say that I hate this version. But let’s start with the pros!

This production does get points for originality and … well, effort. They truly do try to fit the context of the play into a modern standard, which is tough in itself, considering all of the 14th-century context that is supposed to be established within the play itself. I like how Denmark is a company, and Claudius, the CEO — and similarly, I do think that, to an extent, this movie is well-casted. Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius especially look the part, in my opinion.

And as a small detail, I find it at a 60-40 ratio of charming-to-irritating that Hamlet’s groundbreaking “to be or not to be” soliloquy was mumbled emotionlessly in the “Action” section of a Blockbuster. For a movie published in 2000, it feels shockingly like dark millenial humor to have a character almost boredly contemplating his deep desire for the eternal sleep found through suicide in a DVD store in the middle of the night.

Those are the pros. Blink and you’ll miss ’em!

On to the flaws. Ethan Hawke is terrible as Hamlet. I never even feel Hamlet’s emotions throughout his entire performance. He seems to act as though if he speaks in a monotonous drone enough, the audience will finally understand how … sad Hamlet is? I guess? I strongly believe that Shakespeare isn’t supposed to sound as absolutely dull as Hawke portrays it. Iambic pentameter beats in tandem with one’s own heart; Shakespeare’s writing, itself, is full of heart, of passion! In Act 1 scene 2, Hamlet is so utterly steeped in grief and horror at the world that he literally wishes his face would melt like lava, and resolve into the dew on the Earth’s grass! That’s an intense mental image, but Hawke reads it like Hamlet is on the verge of sleep!

And, shocker! I was on the verge of sleep throughout his performance too! Amazing, the effect such a thing can have on your audience, huh?

Another detail about Hawke that may just be me being picky is that, to me, he doesn’t really … look like Hamlet? Sure, he does look like a CEO’s bratty son who spends his day locked up in his room editing videos and only comes out to verbally abuse his girlfriend or scream at his mother — his horrible costume design (including the beanie and the glasses) can attest to this — but he doesn’t look, or feel, like Hamlet. I don’t catch any air of grief, or really, as I mentioned previously, any emotion. I don’t recognize the Hamlet from the play that I know, who is slightly manic, slightly eccentric, yet overall … at least somewhat endearing? Hawke’s Hamlet is a stranger to me.

But anyways, I’ve already ranted for too long — let’s be quick with the rest of the cons. Julia Stiles’ Ophelia, while a somewhat-interesting take, is ultimately boring to me. (What a perfect bride for Hawke’s Hamlet!) I find it almost insulting to the source material that Ophelia’s death — such a beautiful, harrowing, chilling, devastating tragedy in the original content — was reduced to a beautiful girl who drowns in a shallow hotel fountain. I feel that it sucks the meaning from the act itself in that they portray it in such an absurd way.

In summary? This movie tried way too hard to be The Matrix, and failed awfully.

Hamlet (2000) gets 1.5/5 stars from me, the 1 point being the modern setting and the half point being that the runtime is mercifully under two hours.

4. Hamlet (1996) dir. Kenneth Branagh, starring Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet 

Yep, Branagh’s super long, super crazy Hamlet is almost the worst in my books, although significantly better than Hawke’s. There will be no kissing Branagh’s butt in my household, even if he is an admittedly talented actor and director!

This time, let’s start with the cons to spice this up. There’s so much about this version that is just … so … weird, so let’s do a lightning-speed round.

Act 1 scene 2 seems to take place at Gertrude and Claudius’s wedding which, in context, makes pretty much no sense whatsoever. The whole scene where Polonius is chilling with Reynaldo and a prostitute is absolutely absurd. The kiss between Laertes and Ophelia is extremely jarring, and uncomfortable to watch as an audience member. The ghost does not even seem like a ghost (but rather, a funny man with bleached hair and contacts), and Hamlet’s reaction to it is exceedingly underwhelming. Along with that, the special effects in this movie are comical at best. Hamlet and Horatio don’t even seem like friends in this version! If they’re not friends, then what’s the point of Horatio even having a place in the story?

The tiny train that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ride in on is the most “WTF” setpiece of this whole tacky affair. I find the entire casting of this movie to be pretty questionable, besides maybe Kate Winslet as Ophelia. Branagh takes Hamlet’s madness — arguably one of the most interestingly ambiguous things about the source material — and reduces it down to its barest, most boring bones. The audience never questions anything about what’s going on, because Branagh has made all the decisions for you, erasing the ambiguity that makes the source material so engrossing.  Claudius’s death was awful, just awful; one of the most cringeworthy stagings I’ve ever seen. 

And as a final note: the costume designs.  Why did the fencing outfits need nipples, Kenneth? Can you explain that to me? I’m begging for an answer here.

Anyways, I know that was a whole listing of seemingly random claims about this movie, but the runtime is almost 4 hours. If I made in-depth arguments for each one, we’d be here all night. Just watch the movie (or don’t, and stick around to see the end of the article for my actual recommendation) and you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I say that this movie can be a little too over the top sometimes.

But on to the pros, which I hope to flesh out a little more!

I do like, to a small extent, what this version did with Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship. Although I wasn’t very much into the explicit image of them having a physical relationship (which, again, most productions usually keep ambiguous), I did like the fact that Branagh stuck solidly to the concept that Hamlet does love Ophelia and she, him. To date, Branagh’s “get thee to a nunnery” interpretation is the only one to have ever given me chills and make me really feel sorrowful deep in my heart for the events. You can see the agony on Hamlet’s face as he realizes that Ophelia, too, has rejected him in favor of joining Claudius’s side; how truly heartbroken and alone he must feel! I just feel as though the emotion in this scene is truly poignant, even if Ophelia’s face looked awfully silly when squished up against the mirror like that.

I also love the way they added little bonus flashbacks showing pre-play Hamlet. This one, in particular, makes my heart melt, and I adore the way you can really see Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship thrive in it:

While I don’t necessarily agree that Hamlet was in love with Ophelia (an opinion based solely on the text), I do like the clear thought and dedication that Branagh put into this concept, and it is charming at several points through his production. So, bravo to you, Mr. Branagh.

Another simple thing that I like about this interpretation is the setting that they placed it in. Blenheim Palace (in Woodstock, Oxfordshire) is an absolutely stunning, vast location, and I think that it really works for Elsinore. It’s perfectly eccentric (with its checkerboard floors, especially), and seems to reflect the long, winding, almost confusing nature of the play itself. Just as well, I love that the main floor is lined with mirrors; speaking of reflecting, such a setting choice is perfectly illustrative of Hamlet’s tendency to reflect the innermost thoughts and personalities of those around him. All in all? It’s pretty clever!

To sum it up, I give Branagh’s Hamlet a slightly higher 3/5. I could take it or leave it, even though it does occasionally tug on my heartstrings, and does do some very interesting, unique things with the text.

3. Hamlet (2009) dir. Gregory Doran, starring David Tennant as Hamlet

Not gonna lie: I’m actually quite fond of Tennant’s Hamlet, and I promise it’s not just because I got a lot of nostalgia watching one of my favorite Doctors from Doctor Who play one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) Shakespeare characters. Tennant has such charm as an actor; he’s undeniably talented and handsome, so seeing him as Hamlet really is quite a treat.

This production, unlike Hawke’s and Branagh’s, doesn’t really make any crazy moves with Hamlet — which I find refreshing. Often I feel like directors, in wanting to spice up an age-old, world-famous play, sometimes take things a little bit too far, and end up doing the opposite — so I’m glad, at least, for a tad of normalcy to be found in Tennant’s Hamlet. I find the setting, itself, to be perfectly adequate for the play, and the casting is acceptable. Overall, I’d define Tennant’s Hamlet to be a pretty safe version, you know? It’s a solid choice, not very remarkable, but far from bad, too.

But anyways, on to the things I actually really liked. I love the way Tennant shows Hamlet’s madness — by being overall very goofy and silly, and by sometimes harboring a bit of a zany glint in his eyes. This production emphasizes the questionable “insanity” of Hamlet, but still leaves some room open for interpretation for the audience, which I can certainly appreciate. Overall, Tennant handles this role with skill and precision, displaying an utterly wide range of emotion through this iconic character, and somehow still breathing a fresh, unique life into him. It’s certainly commendable!

Above is my favorite little scene that Tennant does in this version. I just love the way he speaks, the way he portrays Hamlet’s wildness.  It’s so, so good!

I also really, really love the way Hamlet and Horatio’s relationship is portrayed in this production. Normally, I feel like productions don’t really take advantage of the nature of their friendship, nor of Horatio’s character at all. I would definitely argue that Horatio, although limited to a handful of lines, is an absolutely central character to the play — he is the light at the end of the tunnel, the one who survives in order to grant Denmark a better future and royal family through the words of his mouth and his memory. He is the only confidant that Hamlet can trust throughout the whole affair, which is utterly important, considering Hamlet cannot even trust his own love to keep his secret.

In this version, Hamlet and Horatio’s close relationship really shines through, which makes me feel utterly comforted as a viewer — that even though Hamlet is paranoid and manic and utterly depressed, he still has a friend he can trust and confide in. To me, Horatio represents hope shining through in the events that unfold. And every time we see Hamlet gratefully fling himself into Horatio’s arms, or goofily play recorders with him, or even when Hamlet dies within the embrace of the only person he could ever trust — we see that hope shine through, even in the darkest of moments. And I really, really adore that.

However, I do have some small-ish qualms about this production that I would like to address.

I’m not really crazy about how the ghost is portrayed here. Composition of shots is very important when shooting a film; normally, in Hamlet, the ghost is portrayed to be taller, more terrifying, Hamlet on the ground or sitting down and looking up at him. It shows admiration, and a position of power in the ghost’s case. However, I thought it strange how in this version, Hamlet is a little bit taller than his father, and they stand eye-to-eye until Hamlet falls to his knees. To me, the power imbalance between them is not really emphasized, which does not really make Hamlet’s shock and terror pack a punch? Also, I know I said this about Branagh’s as well, but McKellen’s Hamlet Sr. doesn’t even feel like a ghost to me. Hamlet can touch him, and reach out to him; he is not even vaguely transparent or mystical, or even remotely scary. To me, the experience of that scene is rendered underwhelming.

The other little problem that I have with this movie is that the broken glass/mirror imagery is … sort of shoved down your throat, here. Unlike Branagh’s, which conducts that symbolism with a sort of keen subtlety and doesn’t make it the main focus of the movie, Tennant’s really packs it on thick. Even the cover of the DVD itself is Tennant staring at his broken countenance in  a shattered mirror. I think that they could have pulled that off with a little bit more finesse. Other than that, though, my problems with this production are very minor, and I mainly enjoy everything I see!

I give Tennant’s Hamlet a 4/5 for being easily enjoyable and well produced.

2. Hamlet (1948) dir. Laurence Olivier, starring Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

I just want to clarify right off the bat that any production of Hamlet that endorses Freud’s absolutely garbage theory that Hamlet wants to bang Gertrude or vice versa (read that article at your own discretion, it’s gross) is one that I already disapprove of. The Freudian theory is absolutely absurd and goes against pretty much everything Hamlet stands for in the play, and should never be taken seriously. Even though Olivier’s interpretation of Gertrude and Hamlet’s relationship is pretty explicitly Freudian (which truly breaks my heart), I’m going to completely ignore that and focus on the parts of his version that is actually coherent and sensible. Just know that I, in no way, condone of this interpretation of their relationship, and am choosing to rather emphasize the things that are worth watching about this production, since it is somewhat historically significant in that Laurence Olivier starred in it.

With that said, let’s segway into the pros.

Hamlet-1948-splash

I actually really love the casting of this version. I think that every character really suits the character that they’re playing — Olivier is appropriately melancholy looking, his face suspended in permanent puppy-dog eyes for almost the entirety of the play. Just as well, this Ophelia (portrayed by Jean Simmons) is absolutely breathtaking with her long, blonde hair and girlish and youthful expression. In fact, I think that this version might have my favorite Claudius ever, Basil Sydney. I love the way he portrays Claudius, and I think that he just has an excellent look for him. This is one thing, I believe, that is quite important for film adaptations, especially for that of Hamlet — I feel a lot of dissonance when the actors don’t look the way the characters perhaps should, like when they make Hamlet a beefy jock or Polonius a younger fellow. This production, I feels, does really good in that department — along with the absolutely incredible costuming.

Much like in the Branagh version, I really, really love the setting for Olivier’s Hamlet. There are so many wide-open doors and eccentric castle rooms, and I also very much loved the huge ocean next to Elsinore, and the lovely creek in which Ophelia died. Again, similarly to Branagh, the setting for this production really felt like a winding maze — lots of curling staircases and almost primitive-looking platforms, juxtaposing confusion and simplicity. Hamlet can be found in the vast throne room, which contains pillars and expensive chairs and goblets and other such details — or sitting simply atop a surface looking down at the ocean in his “to be or not to be” speech. I feel as though these locations really illustrate the theme of action or inaction in Hamlet, which is such a gorgeous touch to add.

Another thing that I appreciated was how the ghost in this version is actually quite terrifying. We never fully see his body, nor do we ever really have the perception that he is an empathetic human being. He is ever shrouded in the night’s fog, his expression almost looking malformed and devilish, his voice a harrowing boom resounding through the air. I really appreciate the truly supernatural approach that Olivier took to portraying the ghost; after all, at one point in the play, Hamlet truly has to wonder if this being was his father or just a demon sent to trick him. I think it’s worth points to portray the ghost as actually … well, something that could be demonic. It was an interesting touch, to say the least.

Now, to go onto Ophelia. I truly love Ophelia in this version. She is soft and sweet, and you can truly see how much she loves her family. (I feel as though productions of Hamlet sometimes forget that it was her father’s death that drove her mad. In order for her to go mad with grief, it must be shown that she actually did love her father, right?) My favorite is in Act 1, scene 3, when Polonius is harping on to Laertes about how he should behave while he’s away in France – and all the while Ophelia is walking behind him, goofing around and fixing his collar and bugging him in an endearing manner. I find it to be very adorable that they’re actually portrayed as siblings are, and am surprised that more productions don’t take this route! It’s so fun to see their family actually feel like a family, and that almost enhances the effect of the later tragedy.

And speaking of the later tragedy, one small detail I love about the scene where Ophelia is mad is that when she solemnly says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.Pray you, love, remember.” (IV.V.199-200). Normally, productions have Ophelia offering this flower to Laertes, as a symbol for them both remembering their father, perhaps. But in Olivier’s version, Ophelia slowly and gracefully walks into another room, and sets the flower on the armrest of a chair. She seems to caress the air for a moment, as if cupping someone’s cheek, and says, “pray you, love, remember,” in a soft, loving voice. I like to interpret this as she’s speaking to Hamlet, even though he’s away. After all, Ophelia assumes in Act 3 scene 1 that Hamlet’s mind is corrupt, so that he no longer knows or remembers who she is or what their honest relationship was like. I truly like this interpretation of those simple lines, it’s very unique!

Photo_Hey_non_Nonny.18165344_large

Those are about all the pros I can think of. Let’s go onto the cons.

Is it blasphemous to say that I don’t think Olivier is that good of an actor, at least for this role? I know he’s classic and considered one of the best actors ever, but I feel as though his expression never really varies throughout this film. I don’t really feel that hyper-emotional, eccentric, melodramatic quality of Hamlet that always should shine through, and which shines through even in the original text. He maintains the expression of “calm, sad boy” throughout the whole thing, and even declares his, “I am dead, Horatio” with a stone-cold expression. This Hamlet is not manic; he seems to be going through all of his sufferings with unrealistic calmness. It just doesn’t feel like the weirdly lovable, messy Hamlet I know. While Olivier surely looked the role, I wouldn’t really say he’s the best Hamlet I’ve seen.

Also … Olivier cuts out so much of the play, including some characters — Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras altogether! And while I understand that he was probably looking to make the play shorter, more together and less chaotic, and a little easier to understand, those three characters (although minor characters) are still incredibly important in highlighting certain qualities in Hamlet? In fact, maybe their absence is the reason why Olivier’s Hamlet just feels so boring to me. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern highlight a sort of pained carelessness in Hamlet; Hamlet feels betrayed by their siding with Claudius, and even goes as far as to kill them when they try to deliver him to England. And Fortinbras is supposed to be a foil for Hamlet — he’s quite literally the story of Hamlet if everything had just gone right! It’s a real shame that they’re not in it.

Also, this production’s Horatio, much like its Hamlet, is utterly boring. I feel like how much of a role Horatio plays in a production of Hamlet can really make or break how I feel about it, honestly. Horatio is so important to the story, and if he isn’t shown to be relevant to the story or very close friends with Hamlet, the hope or ray of light at the end of the play doesn’t really stick with me.

Besides the absolutely garbage Oedipal allusions, that’s about all the problems I had with it. Although I was sad to see Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras absent, I sorta liked how short and easy the movie became to watch. Overall, I liked this version, and found it very good! I give Olivier’s Hamlet 4.5/5 for how gorgeous, spooky, and tragic it is.

1. Hamlet at Elsinore (1964) dir. Philip Saville, starring Christopher Plummer as Hamlet

Okay. Okay. This is my absolute favorite production of Hamlet, for so many reasons. Let’s get right into the pros, because I can’t wait.

Christopher Plummer, to start off, is an absolutely amazing Hamlet. He captures his melancholy, his grief, his mania, his sort-of eccentric personality — all wrapped up in one multifaceted, appropriately complex, handsome prince who both looks and feels the role. I was endlessly amused, devastated, and charmed by Plummer’s Hamlet, and to date I have not seen a Hamlet that I enjoy more than his. Just as well, the casting of this movie is amazing. The Polonius (Alec Clunes) is so expressive, and utterly hilarious, especially during Hamlet’s initial scene in which he feigns madness. The way that he reacts to being put in such a situation had my sides sore.

hamlet-at-elsinore-01-1

Just as well, the Claudius and Gertrude in this seem to have been born for this role. Gertrude reacts to the events happening around her with a sort of shocked, guilty grace; she has the composure of a Queen, but the true guilt shining through of an adulterer. I admired her acting skills so much! And to speak of Claudius, I loved how conniving he was without even trying. I feel like one important thing to take into account with Claudius is that, as an audience, we’re not really supposed to like him; after all, he ruined Hamlet’s life, killed his brother, and took all the benefits of marrying Gertrude without really apologizing.  I feel like some adaptations try to make him seem like a villain who could be passed as a hero, but in doing that, sometimes, it’s hard to catch whether or not the production is trying to interpret him as innocent or moral, which, as the text clears up, he is not.

Yet Robert Shaw’s sheer vibe that he gives off as Claudius lends him to seem like sort of a mysterious man — trustworthy, perhaps, but the snakelike air that emanates from Claudius’s villainous role definitely shines through. Special shoutout also goes to Jo Maxwell Muller’s sweet, youthful Ophelia, whose song entranced me and I’m sure others who’ve seen it; Michael Caine’s adorable, loyal, and self-proclaimed LGBTQ+ positive (see his autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood, pg. 63) Horatio, who is definitely my favorite Horatio yet; and the absolutely charming Osric, played by Philip Locke, whom Hamlet humorously mocks. This cast is just fun, and very well picked, which is the backbone of the very production itself! I really, really love it.

I know I’ve talked a lot before about how I’m bothered that almost all film adaptations choose not to take into account Hamlet and Horatio’s close relationship, but I feel absolutely oppositely in regard to Hamlet at Elsinore. I think Caine’s choice to “emphasize Horatio’s ambiguous sexuality” (Caine, 63) was an incredible choice, and it truly adds to the tragedy and hope wrapped-up in Hamlet’s plan and death. It made Hamlet’s goofiness more charming, and certainly made him more lovable as a character, because we got to see how he truly is when smitten with a close friend.

(If you ignore the cheesy AMV-esque music they put to this video, you’ll see how great and precious their dynamic is.)

Just to reinstate, Horatio’s dynamic with Hamlet is extremely important because Horatio represents a light at the end of the tunnel for Elsinore (same with Fortinbras); he represents the virtue or nobility in “[suffering] the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as Hamlet puts it (III.I.65-66). So when Hamlet at Elsinore is drawing to a close and Horatio’s emotion-stricken expression raises, and we see the tears streaking his pale face and sorrow in his light eyes, the audience realizes that Horatio does not commit suicide because there is pure virtue and purpose in him being alive. Horatio is strong, and steadfast, and so important in making this point at the end. So even though Horatio is the only Shakespearean character Michael Caine has played (due to lack of dramatic training, so I read?), I believe he does an absolutely breathtaking job.

And speaking of Hamlet’s relationships with the other characters around him, I’m actually very pleased with the way he and Gertrude’s relationship is shown. I was fearful of some aforementioned Oedipal nonsense in some parts, but I really do think that this production does a good job of capturing Hamlet’s familial fondness for Gertrude, and vice versa. It is my interpretation of the source material that Hamlet and Gertrude really do love each other, despite the fact that Gertrude hasn’t been a very good mother. You can see that here:

QUEEN: He’s fat and scant of breath.—
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin; rub thy brows.
The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet. (V.II.313-315). 

QUEEN, to OPHELIA:  I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave. (V.I.255-257)

HAMLET: Soft! now to my mother!
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (III.II.426-429)
And there’s a lot of instances in which Gertrude frets over Hamlet’s wellbeing (try II.II.36-39 and III.I.41-46), and of course, in the closet scene, Hamlet is really concerned about his mother rejecting her dirtied lifestyle in favor of one of virtue. And this fondness certainly comes out in the acting between Plummer and Tobin in Hamlet at Elsinore. I find it exceedingly endearing how even after “speak[ing] daggers” to her, Hamlet still shows in fondness by laying his head on his mother’s lap, and giving her a hug to comfort her amidst all of his cruelty. Even though Gertrude’s trust in Hamlet’s sanity is shattered here, it’s clear that Hamlet only has her broken morality in mind. I love the way this dynamic is portrayed on screen, and I feel like a lot of adaptations miss out on choosing to waste their scenes by making them Freudian as opposed to emphasizing their complex, tragic familial relationship.

To change subjects a little, another decision that I find very compelling and interesting is how the audience never quite gets the opportunity to see the ghost, but the ghost, in a way, is the audience. It is not the ghastly entity as portrayed in Olivier’s Hamlet, but rather, it is the camera itself: Hamlet looks right up at it as he speaks with his father, conveys his horror to us as if it’s us we’re speaking to. It makes me wonder if what they were going for in making that decision is in that Hamlet is such an age-old story, we all expect to know what will happen, and wait consciously for the deaths that will occur due to Hamlet’s quest. It makes me feel as though I’m the one telling Hamlet to do this in expecting it; I’m the one telling him to keep his mind on track in Gertrude’s closet, because I, like the ghost, am an outside observer who has no say in how the dominoes will precisely fall. But I’m sure there are several interpretations and reasons for this choice. It’s just unlike any other production of Hamlet I’ve ever seen!

And now I’ll talk about the setting, because setting is always very important. The title of this production speaks for itself: it was actually shot at Elsinore, the place in which Shakespeare chose Hamlet to take place back when he wrote it. While the castle, itself, isn’t quite anything remarkable or symbolic like Branagh or Olivier’s location choice, it is quite enchanting to be able to regard the events of Hamlet in the place they were initially supposed to take place in. It’s quite the treat, especially for someone who enjoys small facts about Shakespeare like that, like me! Another small setting choice I like is how Hamlet’s first interaction with the ghost takes place on a sort of rocky beach. As Hamlet contemplates the weight of his new purpose, there’s an added, intense effect by the fact that the waves are crashing loudly in the background. I feel as though it represents his tumultuous emotion, which  I think is very fitting. I like that detail!

As I’m sure you can tell, I could literally talk about this production until my dying day. There’s pretty much no problems I have with it, honestly? I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants a focused, clear, well-shot, -produced, and -casted Hamlet. I absolutely give Hamlet at Elsinore 5/5, and the status of my favorite production of Hamlet yet!

Thank you so much for reading, if you’d made it this far! I highly encourage watching as much as you can and figuring out what interpretations and types of Hamlet productions work best for you, too. All of this is my highly unprofessional opinion. But I hope you got some helpful insight anyways! You can watch Hamlet at Elsinore here, if you’d like! Happy watching!

 

The Saddest Moment in Star Wars

Article

Or, alternately: Let Me Ramble About Star Wars for Around Two-Thousand Words. 

When you read that title, I imagine there are a lot of scenes that are conjured up in a typical Star Wars fan’s head.

Most famously, maybe it’s Anakin and Obi-Wans heartbreaking confrontation on Mustafar. Maybe it’s Vader and Luke sharing a soft and final moment as father and son at the end of Episode 6. Or maybe for you, it’s some of the terrible moments from Clone Wars: Feral Opress’ death. Satine Kryze’s death. Ahsoka leaving a heartbroken Anakin on the steps of the Jedi Palace, and you know — many, many other scenes I can’t even begin to name without making this article even longer than it already is.

In summary? Star Wars is really frickin’ sad, and all of those moments are perfectly acceptable moments to be emo about. Heck, I’m emo about them. I won’t lie.

But there’s a moment in Star Wars that absolutely ruins me every time I rewatch it. A scene that twists my gut and never fails to make my eyes a little misty. A scene that makes me feel so dreadfully bleak and sad and angry at Lucasfilms for actually making me observe this.

That scene is Qui-Gon Jinn’s death.

And I know what you’re thinking: really? Are you serious? That scene from Phantom Menace, a.k.a the movie most widely regarded as the worst installment of Star Wars because of the Gungan Who Shall Not Be Named? Yes. I am talking about that movie and that scene. And listen, it’s not the effects or anything that make Qui-Gon’s death so awful for me (because let’s be real, they’re pretty terrible). It’s the acting, and the context of the relationships between the characters involved.

The movie spends so much time building up the fact that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are very close. They walk in identical strides, joke around together — Obi-Wan can almost always be seen in this film trotting at his masters heels with the eagerness of both a Padawan and a close friend. That is, of course, until the narrative shifts into Anakins territory and Qui-Gon’s attention, too, shifts.

If you’ve read the “Jedi Apprentice” books by Jude Watson, you know that the origins between this famous Master-Padawan duo were shaky at best. Years ago, Qui-Gon was still hurting from the figurative loss of his last Padawan, Xanatos, and was not eager to take a new Padawan despite Yoda’s encouragements. Obi-Wan had to beg, plead, negotiate, and even save Qui-Gon’s life multiple times before the man even began to warm up to the idea of taking him as a Padawan.

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Qui-Gon, fighting his ex-Padawan Xanatos, who looks suspiciously like Obi-Wan. Hmmm….

In short? Qui-Gon was really, really insensitive and dismissive. Obi-Wan had to prove himself time and time again and go above and beyond at just thirteen years old in order to even catch the faintest glimpse of Qui-Gon’s approval. It wasn’t fair at all, even though they eventually became the inseparable duo we see them to be in the beginnings of Phantom Menace.

I promise, I’m getting to my point. One of the things that really upsets me about Qui-Gon’s death in this movie is the terrible state of he and Obi-Wan’s relationship during the time of his death despite their clear closeness and the very accurate characterization of Qui-Gon and his insensitivity in his final moments.

Qui-Gon knows what he and Obi-Wan have been through together. Yet even with him standing right by when they faced the Council together, he tosses him away to the Jedi Knight Trials without even speaking to him about it beforehand and asks the Council to give Anakin to him as a Padawan. The betrayal and dismay on Obi-Wan’s expression in his moment is nothing short of gut wrenching.

All this is to say that Qui-Gon died without ever apologizing for that, without ever exposing to his Padawan his personal intentions in taking Anakin on so hastily in contrast to how slowly he had to win his approval. Obi-Wan watched him die without ever really learning of his Master’s true feelings toward him — if he really valued their friendship, or his responsibility for their very new friend Anakin more.

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Qui-Gon and Anakin in Episode 1: Phantom Menace (1999).

The fact that these two left so much unsaid between them is what makes me so terribly sad in the moment when Obi-Wan is watching him die.

Which brings me to the excellent characterization of Qui-Gon in the moment of his death. The thing is is that he is a very old, very wise Jedi (despite his recklessness) and therefore has a dedication to the greater good, to the truth, and to the thing that’d really be a lightsaber in Anakin’s gut for years to come — the rule of no attachments. As Qui-Gon is dying, he could be lying there, cradled in Obi-Wan’s arms and explaining to him that no, I do value our friendship and partnership. I really am proud of you and the Jedi you’ve grown to be, and I don’t regret all the time we’ve spent together. But Qui-Gon knows full well that in the grand scheme of the universe, these words will mean nothing to anybody but Obi-Wan and his conscience, rendering both he and Anakin’s sacrifices useless.

So instead, Qui-Gon instructs Obi-Wan to “train the boy”. Which of course are extremely cruel last words, seeing as Obi-Wan was essentially replaced by this child and is now expected to take full parental responsibility over him with his Master’s dying breath. But this is where the amazing acting and characterization comes in.

When I watch this scene, this single moment kills me every time. As Qui-Gon is talking, he lifts his hand and sort of gently brushes his finger against Obi-Wan’s face. To me, this represents Qui-Gon balancing his responsibility to the Jedi Order and to his friendship with Obi-Wan. And isn’t that what his whole character is about — a gray Jedi? One who stretches and bends the rules of the Order while retaining its core principles?

Star-Wars.gif

Let me explain. While Qui-Gon is speaking what he is obligated to say — train the boy, he’s cosmically important, etc. — he is also acting on his familial feelings toward Obi-Wan in touching his face in such a soft, apologetic way. He knows that with his last words he has to make sure Obi-Wan understands the weight of Anakin’s importance … but with the final strength he has, still reaches up to almost consolingly reciprocate Obi-Wan’s physical touch. This moment is so underrated in the fanbase! It’s so sweet, so friendly, so gentle — one of the few nice moments in the whole series! Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship is so important to the development of the prequel trilogy because it sets a precedent for Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship.

What also kills me about this scene is the way Obi-Wan acts as he realizes that his best friend of twelve years is dying. I mean, the agonized “NO!” is pain enough, but I mainly die over the way Obi-Wan cradles him in his arms, acting against what he knows about the rules of attachment in favor of trying to give a man who truthfully needs no comfort, comfort. It kills me the way that he kinda pets Qui-Gon’s face — it’s such a small, childish gesture where it’s hard to tell if he’s doing it for Qui-Gon’s sake or his own.

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The second-to-last detail that really comes for me is the way Qui-Gon stares at Obi-Wan almost unblinking in his final moments. (I love the way Liam Neeson’s eyelashes look in this part, the blankness of his expression. Can you tell I’ve watched this way too many times?) It always makes me wonder what he was thinking as he was about to die. Internally, was his focus more on Anakin and Anakin’s training? Or was he looking at his former Padawan’s face — the last sight he’d ever see — and experiencing remorse? Or did he have the acceptance of an old Jedi and welcome death with neutrality? This kind of stuff keeps me up at night!

Okay, but, really. It’s time I finally talk about the detail that kills me the most in this scene. It’s the actual moment of Qui-Gon’s death, itself — when his eyes close and he falls limp in Obi-Wan’s arms.

What really hits home in this moment is the way that Obi-Wan reacts to this. The way instinctively he catches the other to keep his head upright, and leans down to press his forehead against Qui-Gon’s, face scrunching up as he attempts to keep his composure and hold in un-Jedi-like tears. It’s likely that he and his master never shared a moment of genuine affection like this when he was alive both because of the Jedi rules and because of Qui-Gon’s somewhat conservative nature.

At this point in time, Obi-Wan is twenty five years old. He’s far from a child, and although Qui-Gon could be supposed to be a father figure in his life, their relationship seems to function more as a partnership in its final days. Obi-Wan, as a character, is known to be very reserved and mature, one who follows the Jedi credo strictly — most of the time. I believe that Obi-Wan’s reaction to Qui-Gon’s death is such a beautifully tragic moment of character development for him that is far from talked about in the Star Wars fanbase.

 

I mean, think about it. When Obi-Wan’s quasi – lover, Satine Kryze, died in his arms only thirteen years later with strikingly similar circumstances (same murderer, same method of murder, still in front of Obi-Wan, etc.), Obi-Wan retained his composure brilliantly. But going back to Qui-Gon’s death, Obi-Wan gently holds him in his arms, forehead to forehead.  That single, childish act, to me, represents Obi-Wan’s sort of Jedi coming-of-age. And that makes me sad — the fact that he was somewhat thrust into the life of Jedi knighthood in such a way, all because of Qui-Gon and his hasty choices and somewhat premature death.

HoldMeObiWanKenobi-TL

Obi-Wan and Satine Kryze, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

In a few words, his death just wasn’t fair — in any respect, for anyone. And I feel like that really encapsulates a major theme in Star Wars. Sometimes, things happen and they aren’t fair whatsoever — yet they happen nonetheless. Sometimes, a group of rebels die for the greater good of the rebellion, and it isn’t fair. Sometimes, you’re abandoned on Tatooine to live the life of a scavenger, and it isn’t fair. Sometimes, your father figure is killed in front of you by an edgelord Zabrak Sith, and it isn’t fair.

But much like the kids from Rogue One, or Rey, or Obi-Wan Kenobi, the sacrifice of fairness can truly benefit others. And I think that’s a beautiful, selfless theme.

So, yes. In conclusion, there’s a lot of reasons why Qui-Gon’s death will forever be one that shakes me to my core, and it’s not just because I love Qui-Gon’s character a whole lot. His relationship to Obi-Wan plays a huge part in the cinematic beauty of it, I think — and in addition to that, the subtle gesture between each character when taking into account the context and theory of each action. It’s just beautiful and absolutely gut – wrenching every time I watch it. I wish more people talked about it, because even though the more prevalent Star Wars deaths are all tragic and important, Qui-Gon’s is quite underrated in that respect.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. If you’ve read this far, I truly wonder … do either of us have anything better to do?

A Surprised Response to It (2017)

Article, Movie Review

Disclaimers first! I am not a horror movie watcher. In fact, I’m very sensitive to strong themes, one thing that this movie is full of. It would be good to keep that in mind while I’m making this review, because my overall reaction to the film is different from what a fan of horror might think.

Disclaimer number two! I’m not going to review this movie in terms of its accordance to the book, because I’ve never read it. This review is solely for the mechanics, plot, etc. of the movie.

Disclaimer number three! Spoilers ahead!

It... where should I even start with It?

The movie was… crazy, to say the least. It was two hours and fifteen minutes of  deep, very real gut-wrenching, sickening terror. It follows the story of a group of children (entitled “the Losers Club”) who live in the small town of Derry in 1989. Inhabiting Derry is the monstrous entity of Pennywise, a shapeshifting being who feeds on the fears of children, if only because their fears are simplistic and they are easy to lure. Upon devouring their fear, Pennywise takes the children and puts their bodies in his underground lair as a personal monument to his accomplishments. When each member of the Losers Club continually has encounters with Pennywise’s terrifying personas, they realize that they are the only ones who can put a stop to his reign of terror over Derry. When the clown pushes, they push back, and the result is the shocking, thrilling trip that is It.

Even with my first disclaimer in mind, there are a lot of things that I loved about this movie.

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One thing I really liked was how the movie really worked to make the audience care about the kids. Through not only the Losers Club’s fears, but their home lives, thoughts, personalities, and interactions, the movie manages to endear us to these misfit protagonists. I can appreciate Stephen King’s tales because of their character-based natures — it’s not just about making the audience jump a couple times, it’s about giving them faces they’ll remember, it’s about scaring them to their very core, it’s about giving them something to really root for and care about. And believe me, I won’t be forgetting about poor little Georgie anytime soon.

I guess the only con I can think of to the fact that the characters have the most importance to this story is that some characters feel more relevant than others. The problem with that is when the less-relevant characters have a scene, it makes the whole affair feel rather… disjointed.

For example, when we follow one of the bullies into the sewer and he encounters Pennywise in the form of zombies. While I was scared out of my mind during this scene (and, of course, impressed with the visual effects), I kinda just sat there wondering … what’s the point of this? I get that the movie was trying to illustrate that lots of kids were going missing, but with the way we were already witnessing all of the fears of the Losers Club as it was & with the way the zombie boy is pretty much never mentioned again, it made me feel as though the scene was more making sure we were still aware of the movie’s nature as a horror movie.

I feel the same way about the bully Henry. Henry has some of the most gore-heavy, terrifying scenes in the whole movie, and yet I feel as though most of his role in the movie could have been cut entirely and the whole thing would’ve felt much cleaner and less off-balance.

Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but … this is a two hour and fifteen-minute horror movie. There were a lot of places where I felt myself snapping my fingers and begging the movie to just get to where it was going instead of offering fluff.

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But of course, there is major props to be given to all of these actors, with honorable mentions specifically given to Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise) and Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie). To put it in colloquial terms, Skarsgård and Scott freaking slayed their roles, and heck, Scott is eight years old and one of the most talented actors I’ve seen in a long time! Both in the scenes where Georgie is first taken by Pennywise and later on when Pennywise is pretending to be Georgie to scare Bill, Scott blew my mind with what terror and emotion he could communicate to the audience. It was pure talent, and I definitely expect more great things from him in the future.

And then there’s Skarsgård. From the first moment you see his demonic countenance in that sewer, you know that this movie is going to be a lot. Skarsgård brings such a distinct personality to the iconic role, and my respect to him for that knows no bounds. There are some scenes where he’s not even really doing anything and I still felt shaken with terror just based on how confident he appears to be — like how when he was humorously pretending to almost take a bite out of Eddie’s hand to scare him, or when he was talking to Georgie and you could see the saliva on his lips because of how hungry he was. The little details like that really gave the movie a distinct charm and precision, and I love that!

But that’s enough about the actors and characters, honestly. I could go on and on about how much I loved so many aspects of this movie — how the colors felt properly saturated in a lot of places, how the fears were distinct, how the scary moments really felt intense or real, how the lighting was masterful or the atmospheric settings were perfect — but I feel like I wouldn’t be saying anything new. This movie definitely obeys the laws of what a horror movie is supposed to feel like, and it passes with flying colors in that aspect.

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Yet this movie is not without sins (trademark CinemaSins, haha), and the most prominent sin in my mind is the parts where it was unrealistic in very prominent ways. And yes, I know, this is a movie about a garbage sewer monster ghost thing who feasts on the fears of helpless children, but still. If this movie is going to set itself in the real world and play, for the most part, by real world rules, I feel like there are a lot of moments where they could have done better.

For example, I am really tired of the ’80s cliche where the bullies that go after the misfit characters are like … absolutely rotten, evil, and one-dimensional. I feel like this movie really relied on that trope, and that’s something that, to me, weakened the multifaceted aspect of all of the characters. I thought the scene where Henry was attempting to cut up Ben’s stomach was really needlessly cruel and violent. Like, okay, movie, we get it– Henry has issues. No need to make him all Bellatrix Lestrange to communicate to us that he has those issues — it just makes him seem like a fake villain instead of an actual, three dimensional person. I feel as though if they had balanced Henry’s interactions with his father with how much he bullied the Losers Club, it would have made his downfall much more effective.

Another rather petty detail I noted (that, of course, other reviewers have touched on) is how almost irritatingly unrealistic that rock fight is. Do these kids realize that it’s not impossible to be stoned to death, and that it was a pretty common way to kill someone in biblical times? These kids were getting hit square in the head by these huge rocks and both Henry and Richie (the two most relevant characters who got noticeably hit) walked away completely unscathed! This scene got under my skin in that aspect, even if it is home to the absolutely iconic “Blow your dad, you mullet-wearing asshole!” line and double-middle fingers from Richie.

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Other tiny details that bothered me but aren’t worth expanding on is: how some of the characters in the Losers Club seem exceedingly less relevant compared to the others, the general romance between Beverly, Bill, and Ben that I still don’t quite understand, why Pennywise didn’t just pounce on the kids after the Neibolt house when they were divided and uncertain,  and how sometimes the general composition of this movie was boring. But y’know, I’ll leave that to the second movie to hopefully fix these problems.

Okay, I promise I’m almost done railing on this actually-quite-good movie. The last thing I want to talk about that I had problems with was how anticlimactic Pennywise’s downfall was. I was honestly quite confused abut how Pennywise’s physical form and strength worked when he began to seem weakened by all of the Club’s denial of their fear in him. I feel like this movie spent a lot of time showing us how powerful, all-knowing, and unstoppable Pennywise is only for him to be easily pushed down a hole in the ground in the end. And I understand that Pennywise is going to come back 27 years later in the grand scheme of things, but still — looking at this movie as an individual entity, I feel like it was not sensible enough for my tastes.

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I would have liked more information as to why Pennywise didn’t just either kill the Club, make them forget about him, or simply go after other kids who are more ignorant of his identity (a deed he very well may’ve been doing offscreen, rendering it useless to us as an audience). I also would have liked to know more about the mechanics of Pennywise’s power, even if it does disrupt the mystery aspect of the story: is he kinda like Tinkerbell where when people don’t believe in him, he deteriorates? Can he only kill people if he has feasted on their fear first? Does he go back into hibernation at the end of the movie, or is he still awake and hungry, just weakened? I’m confused, and I don’t want to read a eleven hundred and fifty three page book in order to find out. I feel as though the movie could have done a better job communicating some more distinct pieces of information to the audience, but hey — that’s just me.

Like I said before, I don’t think that this is a bad movie at all. In fact, I think that this is a really well-written, well-shot, and well-colored movie. It’s just that, I look at the things that bother me and realize that I could have enjoyed the movie so much more if they had tweaked things to make it more accommodating as a single, linear story. It’s sort of a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) type problem: it sets itself up so much for whatever’s going to happen in the next movie that the movie that you are watching feels like it’s all buildup and no payoff.

This is the first horror movie I’ve seen in almost five years, and it was extremely impactful. I’ll still be thinking about the plot and mechanics of this story for weeks to come, and I’m pretty sure that that means that the movie has done it’s job right. I highly recommend this to anybody who can handle a good scare and lots of gore, especially if you’re a big horror movie fan. Overall, I give It (2017) 4/5 stars, and I’ll be sleeping with the lights on tonight, thank you very much.

A Disappointed Response to Good Time (2017)

Article, Movie Review

Good Time (2017) was directed by the Safdie brothers. I saw literally no advertisements for it, and mainly went and saw it because I had a free Sunday and it seemed interesting. This movie, in short, was not quite what I expected it to be. I went into the theater expecting a normal action-crime movie experience, with all of the crude humor and washed down characterization that action movies normally offer. Good Time was … unexpected, in a word, because it was not that at all. But sadly, the fact that it broke away from some crime thriller cliches cannot, in my eyes, save it from how it was an ultimately disappointing experience.

All of the Movies I watched This Summer But Ranked from Worst to Best!

Article, Movie Review

So, I did a lot of movie watching this summer. Just, y’know, trying to get up to speed with some old series, trying to stretch my movie-review-writing legs by going to the movies often, et cetera, et cetera. And I had a lot of fun! I watched some good ones and some… pretty bad ones. So I’m happy to chronicle this experience for you, and maybe you can get some sweet movie recommendations out of it! Enjoy!

An Unhappy Response to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Movie Review

Spoilers for this movie ahead. Go ahead and continue reading even if you haven’t seen it, because this movie is pretty unremarkable. Trust me. I guessed the plot twist within the first ten minutes.

Goodness gracious, this movie was a train wreck. A beautifully colored, visually stunning, attractively casted, slightly enjoyable train wreck.