Macbeth – Blu-ray Review

macbeth_headerMacbeth is an inventive and stirring adaptation of the Bard’s most tragic play. It’s beautiful to watch, wonderfully acted, and streamlines the Shakespearean dialogue to create a broodier and more savage version of Macbeth. It’s just a shame that the film isn’t as good as the visuals on screen, even for the most ardent Shakespeare fan.

Australian director Justin Kurzel brings Shakespeare’s Macbeth to life with brutal authenticity, yet brings breathtaking stylized visuals that you can’t look away from. In what may be the most visually artistic interpretation yet, Kurzel and his cinematographer, Adam Arkapaw, frames the beauty of Scotland to good effect. Whether the story it’s the haunting halls of Macbeth’s castle, the towering, fairy tale forests, or the landscapes burnt to a fiery crisp, the film never loses its artistic edge.

However, adapting a complex play as Macbeth is very difficult to do as some the most successful filmmakers have failed in attempting to adapt the play. The script from screenwriters Michael Lesslie, Jacob Koskoff, and Todd Louiso edited out roughly three-quarters of the play, rearranged some the dialogue, and trimmed many of the most famous speeches and still the film is an absolute bore. The screenwriters attempt to add layers to the characters not often seen in previous cinematic adaptations is a noble effort but falls short at re-imagining its source play in a way that brings out anything new. In addition, these edits also lessen the impact of the play’s many pivotal moments. There’s no suspense or rhythm in the way the story plays out.

It’s because of this that Lady Macbeth is largely a disappointment. In the play, Lady Macbeth is strong enough to go toe-to-toe with her husband, but her role as the crazy power wife is greatly diminished here and thus a much weaker interpretation of the character. But Marion Cotillard is a fine actress, and using the lines she’s given delivers compelling Shakespearean monologues. In fact, both Fassbender and Cotillard portray their characters in a very damaged and tormented way. The rest of the supporting characters are also thinly drawn, another consequence of the streamlined approach to the story.

Overall, Macbeth is a film that prefers style over substance. It’s a beautifully shot and artistic film but fails at portraying the tragedy of Lord Macbeth in a fresh new light. If you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, then this adaptation won’t quell your woes. Those who are fans, there’s enough in the film to provide you with an different artistic look at the play. It’ll be interesting to see what Kurzel will bring to material that is more exciting, like say, Assassin’s Creed?

Movie rating: 3/5 atoms
NR 3 Atoms - C


Macbeth is presented in a 1080P MPEG-4 AVC encoded video with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Although the film is over-stylized, the contrast is very well-balanced throughout. The black levels are raised, but miraculously there’s no loss of shadow details. The details are sharp throughout, highlighting the film’s striking visuals. The colors, although heavily elevated, are otherwise consistent and appropriately saturated throughout. The video transfer definitely will keep up with Kurzel’s fantastic visuals.

Video rating: 5/5 atoms


Macbeth is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround audio track. Although the audio clarity is could be considered questionable, this has more to do with the combination of soft whispers, heavy accents, and Shakespearean lines. The dialogue actually comes off quite clear in the center and front speakers, that is when you can understand what the actor’s are saying. The surround speakers provide plenty of atmospheric effects. The effects spread across all channels and pans around the room seamlessly. The subwoofer booms during the film’s various action sequences. Overall, the audio is superb.

Audio rating: 5/5 atoms

Special features

Macbeth‘s Blu-ray contains the following special features:

  • Making Macbeth Featurette
  • Q&A with Michael Fassbender

As you can see, the special features department is quite lacking in this Blu-ray release. The “Making Macbeth” featurette is your ordinary behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews. The actors in the featurette primarily discuss their interpretation of the material, characters, and casting. Although the featurette is only 8-minutes long, it does give you some interesting tidbits. With the Q&A, star Michael Fassbender discusses his take on the character, the director’s vision, rehearsals, tackling Shakespeare, challenges on set, and what it was like to work with the rest of the cast. Another good inside look into Fassbender’s take on the classic character.

Special Features rating: 2/5 atoms
NR 2 Atoms - D

Overall, Macbeth is a wondrous visual take on Shakespeare’s tragic play. However, the film is more style than substance as the script’s streamlined approach neuters the core characteristics of all the characters. The video and audio presentations are superb. Unfortunately, the special features are sorely lacking.

Overall rating: 4/5 atoms
NR 4 Atoms - B

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