After the disastrous Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Kenneth Branagh's return to Shakespeare looked like a desperate move, but despite its four-hour running time, Hamlet seemed like it would pay off in a big way. Does it? Not really. There are moments of greatness, flashes of brilliant acting and exhilarating filmmaking. But it becomes increasingly obvious as it goes on that Branagh hasn't really thought through his interpretation of the play; he just throws it all on the screen to see what happens. What we get is not Hamlet, Prince of Denmark but Hamlet!!! The production is lush, almost too lush, and it's difficult to concentrate on the dialogue when you're distracted by busy clutter like that knick-knack on Claudius' desk. Big-name all-stars such as Jack Lemmon, Billy Crystal, Charlton Heston and Robin Williams all seem to be appearing in different movies, while the conclusion seems lifted from some theatrical precursor to Die Hard. That said, Hamlet does contain some memorable individual scenes. It's just a shame they weren't integrated into a less tedious movie.

Advertisement