Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is Everything that is Wrong with Modern Shakespeare Adaptations


In an unnamed tented wilderness (seriously, you could’ve convinced me these people were living in Mongolian yurts) some psycho (Michael Fassbender – all grit and style, no substance) starts killing people to become king while his libidinous, depressed wife (Marion Cotillard – wasted) pines for their beautiful Guns-N-Roses music-video-style-photographed dead child (buried…or burned…in the opening scene).  Eventually the action moves to some moodily lit chapels and castles where I finally realized the growling and whispering actors were speaking with Scottish accents (except Marion Cottilard – who spoke with….a….what the eff accent?)

Macbeth is allegedly an adaptation of my favorite Shakespeare play and I had no idea what was going on most of the time.  Kurzel’s adaptation (which incidentally has some 1980’s big-hair metal band meets Game of Thrones style cinematography from the otherwise talented Adam Arkapaw that could fool someone into thinking they are watching something dreadfully artsy) is completely incompetent.  For the most part, the film is slavish to Shakespeare’s language (when it’s not cutting key lines), which seems like a good idea (umm, considering Shakespeare’s dialogue is like the best dialogue ever written in the English language) except for the fact it is spoken by otherwise award-caliber thespians with absolutely no sense of feeling or nuance or wit or…well…anything.

The overwhelming feeling created by Kurzel’s production is muddied, bloodied dread…which, sure…dread should be one of the feelings Macbeth engenders…but dear lord where was the suspense, the slow unraveling of one’s sanity, the horror, the sadness, the tragedy?  Everything is so murky and dire as to be rendered flat, and the cast is left to whisper and brood with little meaning and zero profundity.

But why was I surprised?  Kurzel previously directed another steaming pile of dire vile trash about child killing called Snowtown MurdersMacbeth, though the production values are vastly improved (in the same way that the production values of video games from the original Mortal Kombat to Grand Theft Auto were vastly improved), is still a piece of shit.  Is it any surprise then Kurzel’s next project is the adaptation of the video game Assassin’s Creed?  I can’t wait to not watch it.

Meanwhile, don’t make the same mistake I did and suffer through his Macbeth.  See the Polanski version instead.  At least then you’ll feel something other than longing for Axl and Slash and November Rain.

Written by David H. Schleicher


  1. Totally agree, this version was abysmal. I couldn’t believe how much of the script was junked to make way for slow-motion fighting.

  2. P.S. The Kenneth Branagh stage production which was shown live in cinemas, from a church in Manchester, was really good. Scorsese is supposed to be making a film based on that production.

  3. OK, I am not at all in agreement with you and Judy at all on this one–it was viscerally breathtaking and quite an interesting take on my favorite Shakespeare play. But I respect your position.

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