I'm not going to bother with a plot synopsis, so instead I thought I'd just point out some random thoughts and musings I had about the film. I apologize if this reads a little rough, but I felt like getting something out there.
- It begins with what I hoped was a joust, but turned out to be some stupid game where two contestants tried to force a lance through a suspended ring. This was followed by a bunch of spitting in disgust. If the Montague and Capulet families hate each other so much, why have a contest where the stakes aren't higher? Why do these families hate either other so much anyway? It's not explained in the movie, but is it even explained in the original source material?
- When Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld) is introduced, there's a lingering slow-motion closeup of her face. I couldn't understand why this was done as it's not like we needed any kind of hand holding over who Juliet was.
- Romeo's (Douglas Booth) introduction was also a little silly in that he's working on a sculpture wearing the deepest v-shirt I've ever seen. This shirt exposes a sweaty, hairless, and atrophied chest. At this point I'm afraid I might be watching Shakespeare for Twilight fans. It's never said, but I guess Romeo's some kind of artist. In several scenes he's either working on a sculpture, drawing, or painting. Did he make a living off this or was this just a hobby where he had large rooms dedicated to it?
- Generally speaking I thought most everyone was miscast. As much as I liked Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit I thought her delivery, as well as Douglas Booth's, was a little labored. Contrast that with Damian Lewis' delivery as Lord Capulet which was way over the top. Ed Westwick's Tybalt made me think he was confused and thought he was on Game of Thrones.
- Paul Giamatti, however, was one of the few bright spots as Friar Laurence. He's always good though. I thought Natascha McElhone was fine, but she's not asked to do much. Lastly, Stellan Skarsgard as Prince Escalus also escapes unscathed, but he's only in a handful of scenes.
- The first half of the film felt rushed, as if they took shortcuts getting us to Romeo killing Tybalt and his banishment at the one hour mark. There's really only one more major thing that needs to happen from this point, but it's stretched out for another hour. I thought the pacing was terrible.
- Romeo and Juliet meet, instantly fall in love, and get married the next day. I've often said that old stories about love at first sight don't translate well to modern times. Nobody meets and gets married within a day unless a large amount of alcohol is involved. I've always thought that love at first sight and quick courtship hinged on times where the parties involved didn't have much in the way of personalities or interests. Imagine if these two had vastly different hobbies or religious beliefs? Sure, I wish love was as simple as just being attracted to one another, but that's not my experience.
- Another thing that I didn't feel translated very well was to see people monologue in public not worried about people overhearing them or being discovered while sneaking around (sneaking around in plain sight to boot). People would look at you like a crazy person if you did that today.
- The film ventures into unintentional comedy territory when we get to Mercutio and Tybalt's showdown. Just before Tybalt's gang arrives there's a gust of wind. I was expecting a Wild West shootout theme to play. Then, you see Tybalt and his gang approaching in slow motion, hair blowing because they forgot to turn the wind machine off. I wasn't sure if a fight was about to break out or a guitar solo where it would cut back to Juliet writhing around on her bed. Where's Whitesnake when you need them?
- Speaking of fighting, I thought the fight choreography was horrible. You'll see swords swinging a good foot over the head of the target, combined with unnecessary spins and flourishes. It reminds me of a video about over-choreographed lightsaber fighting. There's no emotion to it. Plus, they also make a point to tell us that Tybalt has amazing technique and is tough to beat in battle, but you don't see any of that in the film.
- I've heard complaints that the film doesn't use the traditional Shakespearean dialog, but I still felt like I needed an American to to Shakespeare translation at time. Again, look to Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing for an better example of how to do this.
- I actually found the dialog to be redundant. Lady Capulet says that her nephew was her brother's son. No shit, eh? Is that how nephews work, or was their a roaming definition of the term back then? There were more examples of this, but it's not like I took notes.
- I gave myself a chuckle when Friar Laurence told Romeo that he's married to calamity. I said, "Yeah, but is she hot?" I crack myself up sometimes.
- Generally speaking, it seemed to favor style over substance. There was some very nice set and costume design, but at times it felt too complex for the time. At a costume party, Juliet wore this really fancy, Medusa-like mask where I could only wonder who had the skill back then to make such an elaborate mask. It also appeared they were going for a color scheme at the beginning of the film, but then quickly abandoned it.
- This isn't a criticism, but there were lots of scenes where you could see their breath indoors. It must have been freezing where they filmed this. Good thing they had those heavy costumes on.
- Finally, just as we get to the final scene, they have to throw in yet another sissy sword fight. I don't ever remember Romeo having a final fight. Anyway, he kills the guy and leaves his body. Several people follow Romeo in after, and not one showed any concerned or made a comment about the dead body that's still laying outside.
2 (out of 5) Death Stars