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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.37%
Average: 7.32%
Pretty Bad: 4.88%
Total Crap: 2.44%

6 reviews, 46 user ratings

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by Chris Parry

"Gladiator for the educated."
5 stars

Woe is the Shakespearian classic that costs a lot of money to make, features the finest performance a screen legend will ever give and yet will be missed by the masses and assumed to be 'boring' by people who think Bruce Willis "is a heaps good acting type guy." Titus, though it is certain to not take the number one spot at the box office, will be remembered fondly by those who like to keep the old grey matter ticking over, as a smart, original take on one of Shakespeare's more difficult plays, that blends the best elements of Greenaway, Brannagh and Lurhman, and brings to the screen the feel and atmosphere of a large stage production.

Titus is most definitely art over commercial reality, and though the producers most certainly took a bath with this lavishly expensive-looking production that could never seriously expect to find a large audience, they should be given medals for giving one of the world's finest screen actors a chance to deliver a performance he should (and will) be remembered for.

Sir Anthony Hopkins has the stuff. We all know that. A few years ago he was talking of leaving the game entirely. He'd done the money thing, he'd won the awards, and he found himself appearing in drek like Instinct and MI:2. He was retiring. Didn't have the desire. But suddenly he was back. Why? This role is why.

Not up on your Shakespeare? Well in a nutshell, Titus is a Roman general, Saturninus is a new Emperor. When Titus' daughter refuses to marry Saturninus, he instead takes up the marriage bed with the Goth Queen Tamora, who refuses to forgive Titus for killing her son. Tamora, her moor aide and her spoilt arsehole kids decide to punish Titus by ruining his life. They set up his sons to be jailed and killed, spoil his unspoiled daughter, trick him into cutting off hs hand and.. well they're pretty damn mean.

Hopkins' brilliance is unfortunately a double edged sword. While he chews up the frame and demonstrates the kind of thespianic brilliance that Shakespeare himself would never have had the pleasure of seeing in his lifetime, he makes his co-stars look utter twats. It's like going out drinking with friends who are all better looking than you... it just makes it harder to score.

Or so my friends say...

In Titus, as Hopkins powers in and pounds his chest and delivers line after line with the passion and energy few are capable of, he's flanked by noticeable lightweights. Laura Fraser, as his daughter, Lavinia, does the best 'deer in headlights' impression seen since Freddie Prinze Jr last appeared on screen. This is a shame, cos Laura's quite a nice bit of crumpet... but that seems to be all she is. Colm Feore, as Titus' brother Marcus Andronicus, manages to stay in the game quite nicely and considering he's played awful roles awfully in so many films (The Wrong Guy, Face|Off, Iron Eagle II) he surprises. But Titu's elder son Lucius, played by Angus McFadyen (Robert The Bruce in Braveheart)... well he stinks. He really whiffs up the joint. In fact, if the Best Actor Oscar was between McFadyen and a bucket of warm swill, I think we'd be listening to the swill mumble something about thanking it's mother.

On the upside, Jessica Lange (as the Goth Queen Tamora) is a seasoned veteran rarely out of form (even though her American accent is well out of place, especially as her fellow goths sound like Bjorn Borg), Alan Cumming (as Emperor Saturninus) delivers in his trademark style, much as he did in the 'woeful but for Cumming' Plunkett & Macleane, and ER's Harry Lennix takes his time to work up a barnstorming rendition of the evil moor Aaron. Lennix delivers with such gusto you almost wish their was a prequel that dealt strictly with his tortured soul and how it came to be.

But there is another star here. The direction. Julie Taymor is a stage legend, ahving won award after award and feverish applause for her Broadway shows The Lion King and Titus Andronicus. In this she goes deftly surreal, drifts back to standard Shakey, whips it up to a modern day Romeo+Juliet type buzz, then beats you about the head with surrealism again. The effect is one that leaves you thinking the whole way through. Just why does the opening scene feature a young child playing with action figures on a kitchen table with a brown paper shopping bag on his head? I still don't understand, but it made me try.

Titus has all the production design of a mega Hollywood blockbuster. It's awesome to look at. The scenery is breathtaking, the sets amazing, the costuming a story in itself. Frankly, this is a big film that deserves to be seen... but it won't be. It'll be dismissed as Shakespeare by the masses. Assumed to be too smart by half, ignored by folks who'll later complain that Big Momma's House was dumb.

Take my advice. Try it out. Go to the toilet early (it's three hours long), get comfy in your seat, and watch Hopkins do his work. Titus is Gladiator for the educated, and if you're not educated yet, this is a good start.

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originally posted: 08/11/00 17:10:24
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User Comments

10/23/17 Louise A violent,tragic,stylized and bold film, with superb acting performances. 5 stars
7/30/10 brian Punk Shakespeare. 4 stars
2/03/08 Bnorm Very, very strange movie but excellent nonetheless. The absolute epitome of a revenge film 5 stars
2/24/06 TB This is a very crazy movie 2 stars
4/26/05 Indrid Cold Eye-popping yet gratuitous visuals are a reason (the only reason) to see it. 4 stars
6/21/04 milehigh People either love it or hate it. I love it. 5 stars
9/05/03 wendy great movie 4 stars
7/18/03 Dana Taymor had me breathless from the opening credits. Gorgeous. Brutal. Exquisite. Sublime. 5 stars
7/07/03 Jack Sommersby Great-looking, but it hasn't got a consistent narrative and meanders like hell. 2 stars
8/17/02 Zefram Mann Amazing film, and a perfect example of why the bard is still so respected as a writer. 5 stars
7/29/02 Captain Midol Beautiful, disturbing, moving, effective. Violence, apparently, never goes out of style. 5 stars
7/16/02 baby silvertooth looks great 4 stars
7/14/02 the Grinch Taymor is a genius. More proof that stage directors have "the right stuff". 5 stars
1/21/02 Al Fredo Woefully under-rated, one of my all-time faves. Violence & its consequences; yet beautiful. 5 stars
10/16/01 luke holy crap this is a crazy movie 5 stars
10/06/01 adam Highly overated, overlong. Even Hopkins can't save this one. Not as clever as it thinks. 2 stars
7/15/01 Basil One of the best movies of all time. 5 stars
6/19/01 the Grinch Brilliant direction, spectacular visuals, good performances. Craps on boorish Romeo + Julie 5 stars
2/25/01 skye what makes you think, maggie? 5 stars
2/15/01 Sarah Rains Oh I absolutely LOVED this movie 5 stars
2/13/01 Criperace Cool as shit 5 stars
1/26/01 wink You have to get past the first 15 minutes, then it ROCKS! 5 stars
11/01/00 Johnny Figaro Dazzling adaptation, powerful performances... Shakespeare the entertainer as well as artist 5 stars
10/25/00 Maggie Chen Awful. I like a movie which makes me laugh, cry and think. This movie did none of the above 2 stars
10/15/00 Psike Great story, but at times maybe too "arty". Worth watching. 4 stars
10/04/00 JJ I think it's a bad sign when you fall asleep for the first 30mins it was total crap ,boring 1 stars
9/25/00 Nigel Jones Fabulous Tour De Force - very well acted 5 stars
9/07/00 Basil One of the best films I've seen. 5 stars
8/26/00 Keith I predict many other great plays from the playwright 5 stars
8/24/00 mahone Couldn't take more than 15 minutes of its pretentiousness 1 stars
8/11/00 Klute. Hopkins gives his best performance ever. Well directed and adapted. 5 stars
6/11/00 John Woo A classic 5 stars
6/09/00 Greyjack Good god, I can't wait for the DVD. This film is astounding. 5 stars
6/02/00 13th warrior awesome 5 stars
6/02/00 Kevin What an incredible film...captivating, startling, beautifully acted 5 stars
6/02/00 skye it works for me; a great film 5 stars
4/24/00 Thor-Leo Some casting choices were questionable; anachronisms were unevenly successful; still an A. 5 stars
4/14/00 Jeffrey Great movie, great cast! 5 stars
2/16/00 zak does the work justice, everyone in cast gives great performance 5 stars
2/14/00 "Persnickety "Jenn there are no words that can do this movie justice, incredible, amazing! a true piece of art 5 stars
2/10/00 Cat Shakespeare would be proud. 5 stars
2/09/00 Heather A masterpiece, the cinematography and the sets are unbelievable 5 stars
2/03/00 Captain Highcrime Nothing short of a work of art. 5 stars
1/26/00 Pope Gonzo XIII A haunting, brilliant, spell-binding film! 5 stars
12/27/99 jenn "Blu Smrf" Alan cumming is a god, and with Hopkins and Lange, it is a must see! 5 stars
12/21/99 Kim With Hopkins and Lange, things can't go wrong! 5 stars
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  26-Jan-2000 (R)


  21-Sep-2000 (MA)

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