This modern adaptation has a high production value that’s not just for display. Detailed costumes include a crown that resembles tombstones held together by a chain. The hostile landscape shot in Scotland and gloomy interiors create an ominous atmosphere. Somber colors pervade the rest of the film until it culminates into a blood-tinged backdrop of mist and fire to relay the tragedy of its doomed lead.
Micheal Fassbender is meant to play this role. The self-assured but actually tormented character is his niche. Marion Cottilard doesn’t make any attempt to use a Scottish accent, but she still pulls off a cold grieving wife.
These elements make this third attempt at Macbeth an atmospheric adaptation, but the movie’s modern approach is a double-edged sword.
The couple isn’t portrayed as people who fell into the trap of ambition, but as bitter parents who felt wronged by the world and want to watch it burn from their lofty throne.
Lady Macbeth is neutered as a traumatized grieving mother, which isn’t a convincing manipulative figure. It’s not difficult to see Macbeth falling for the witch’s prophecy as a General. As soon as you realize that the Macbeths aren’t convincing enough as a flawed power couple, the narrative loses its appeal. It doesn’t help that the language becomes a big barrier.
The script tweaked the dialogue which wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t incomprehensible. The characters either mumble or whisper through Old English, which is already hard to understand in the first place. The supporting cast also tries their best to make their lines conversational but remains unengaging, which renders their key scenes together forgettable.
The movie uses modern tricks to compensate for this through sex and violence, but the former is a poor choice (an awkward moment in between monologues) and the latter (slow-motion action sequences) aren’t enough to overlook the fact that the story is slow and monotonous. The story meanders through long takes, repetitive apparitions, and landscape shots.
Macbeth is a handsome movie with great actors and stylized battle scenes. But in its attempt to present a gritty dark ages version, it becomes a listless adaptation that lacks the psychological nuances of its source material.
Macbeth is a superficial adaptation with impressive visuals and great performances.