Village Voice Review

A nonstop carnival of murder, rape, and mutilation that begins with a
human sacrifice and culminates in a cannibal feast, Titus Andronicus is
William Shakespeare's contribution to the gross-out horror-comedy. The
filmmaker best suited to bring it to the screen would've been Hershel Gordon
Lewis or the Brian De Palma of Carrie. (The most nightmarish prospect: Oliver
Stone.) The much lionized Julie Taymor staged the play in 1994, and while her
film version isn't exactly a solemn spectacle, neither is it much fun.

Taymor repeats her stage prologue—a kid making an increasingly combustible
mess with a bunch of toy soldiers—before making with the Sturm und Drang
herself as victorious General Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins) parades his
captive Goths through the Roman colosseum. Taymor's "Look Ma, I'm filming!"
use of creative geography and jazzy camera angles precludes even the most
minimal emotional involvement. As the body count mounts, the Romans party—a
sub-Rocky Horror fashion parade of leather trenchcoats and black lipstick.

Competing with this sodden mise-en-scène, the relatively laid-back Americans
come off better than the raging Brits. Where Alan Cumming's fascist fop would
have been laughed out of Cabaret, Jessica Lange makes a splendid Goth queen.
(The nipples on her golden breastplate are a nice touch.) Given the stupidity
of the tragedy's nominal hero, Taymor zeroes in on Aaron, the supervillainous
Moor, as its most articulate figure: "Aaron will have his soul black like his
face," Harry Lennix hisses in his big scene. Hopkins meanwhile cavorts like a
herky-jerky puppet. Evidently he didn't need to see the finished movie before
informing the press of his decision to give up acting.