William Shakespeare play-turned movie adaptations are certainly not everybody's cup of tea, but there's good reason for just about all cinema buffs to pay attention to the upcoming Macbeth. The film is not only generating positive early buzz (more on that later), but its headliners and director are the same people bringing Ubisoft's Assassins's Creed video game series to the big screen (with production due to begin in Fall 2015).
Macbeth stars Michael Fassbender as the eponymous duke of Scotland, who (as he does in Shakespeare's original work) decides to take murderous action to become King of Scotland - spurred on by a prophecy told to him by a trio of witches, as well as his wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard). The director's chair on the project was occupied by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel, whose previous work includes the grisly true story-inspired crime drama The Snowtown Murders (a.k.a. Snowtown).
Kurzel's Shakespeare adaptation only just debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, but it went over quite well with the critics in attendance... with exceptions, of course (see: Cole Smithy calling it "one of the worst adaptations of a Shakespeare play ever" in his review).
The majority of reviews have praised the aesthetic of Kurzel's Macbeth adaptation; including, how the film stages its down and dirty battle sequences on location in and around Scotland - see the above clip, for a small taste of what those swords/steel action scenes are like. Indeed, the general impression is Kurzel and his collaborators has created a very cinematic adaptation - one that avoids being just wind and fury signifying nothing, thanks to the performances by Fassbender and Cotillard.
For another example of the film's style, check out the "Coronation" clip from Macbeth (featured below).
Here's what critics are saying about Kurzel's Macbeth (note: for the full review, click the corresponding link):
THR - Leslie Felperin
Although tradition is upheld with a Dark Ages-Early Christian period setting, actually shot in Scotland for once (unlike the 1971 Roman Polanski version), in most other respects Australian director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) filters Shakespeare's tragic story of murderous ambition through a resolutely modern sensibility. Comparisons with Game of Thrones will be inevitable, and not always flatteringly intended, but they won't be wide of the mark.
Variety - Guy Lodge
[Fearsomely] visceral and impeccably performed, [Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' is] a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquisitely in period. Though the Bard’s words are handled with care by an ideal ensemble, fronted by Michael Fassbender and a boldly cast Marion Cotillard, it’s the Australian helmer’s fervid sensory storytelling that makes this a Shakespeare pic for the ages — albeit one surely too savage for the classroom.
HitFix - Gregory Ellwood
Beyond the performances, this new “Macbeth” benefits from Kurzel’s inspired eye, the increasingly impressive talents of cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (“True Detective”) and Fiona Crombie’s period-loving production design. The world they have created for this tragedy may overwhelm, but it's certainly impossible to forget.
The Playlist - Jessica Kiang
But if there is one reservation to express about the film, it is that the portentous mood remains consistently the same from the very beginning through to the (stunning) final shot. The play inherently has an odd dramatic structure, but Kurzel has adapted it in such a layered way... that it feels like he wants to invest every moment we are left with with equal, massive significance... "Macbeth" is a tremendous bellow of a film, but it could do with drawing breath now and again.
Hey U Guys - Jo-Ann Titmarsh
This is a fine film with a strong cast, yet it needs to show more of Macbeth’s struggle between his honour and desire for power. That said, Kurzel has created a visually-striking hell that is all of Macbeth’s own making.
The criticisms made of Kurzel's Macbeth thus far seem to have to do with what parts of Shakespeare's source play are emphasized in this adaptation - sometime that partly reflects on Kurzel's direction, but perhaps more so the manner in which screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louis approached the material. Either way, it sounds as though this Macbeth retelling is anything but a paint by numbers Shakespeare adaptation; and thus, may be worth your time (all the more so if you want an idea of what Kurzel will bring to the table for Assassin's Creed).
Macbeth does not currently have an official U.S. theatrical release date. We'll let you know when that changes.
Source: Various (see above links)