Right, so I just finished rewatching Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet to see if I like it better now that I know he meant to make Hamlet a more cheerful fellow than is generally portrayed.
And I do. I really wasn't annoyed by him at all this time around, and got all sympatico with the character the way I usually do in other versions. I had always been rather annoyed with Branagh for getting Hamlet so monumentally weird and chipper, but now I kind of dig it. Although why his hair and mustache are so very mismatched still puzzles me, but oh well.
That's not to say I now readily embrace this version and want to run out and buy it. A few things still bug me, like the overblown spookiness of the Ghost scene (Joss Whedon could teach Branagh a thing or two about creeping people out without seeming silly), some of the excessively showy cinematography (that scene where he makes his "my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth" speech is just funkily shot), and the doofy chandelier thing at the end (a thrown sword through the chest isn't enough to finish Claudius off? We have to whack him with a giant chandelier too? Why?). Oh, and the big militaristic invasion by Fortinbras' army at the end annoys me, because I don't want to hate Fortinbras for being a liar, I just want to be annoyed by him for being opportunistic. But he's played by the bad guy from A Knight's Tale here, so I guess I can hate him happily.
But there are several things that used to bug me that didn't this time around. Chief among those is Osric. I guess I'm just used to Osric's weirdness now, because I remember absolutely hating Robin Williams' performance here, and now it didn't bother me at all. In fact, considering it's Williams, I think it's pretty restrained.
This version does have my absolute favorite Horatio: Nicholas Farrell. He makes me weep at the end, more than Hamlet himself. He is the sweetest Horatio ever, and if I ever buy this version (yeah, yeah, I probably will get it eventually), it will be because of him. He does justice to the role of Horatio the way Liev Schreiber does to the role of Laertes in the Ethan Hawke version. It's exactly the way I always want Horatio to be played, sympathetic and brave and intelligent and loyal and trustworthy and perfect. I've never seen the performance matched, not in the filmed versions I've seen, anyway.
One of these days, when I'm not madly packing for the big move, I shall post a really long discussion of all the versions I have seen and what I liked and disliked about them, along with a list of my favorite portrayal of the main characters. Won't that be fun? :-D