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Featured Blu-ray Review: O (Othello)

July 17th, 2012

O (Othello) - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Modern adaptations have been around for a long time and William Shakespeare's plays have been set in the modern time. O is an adaptation of Othello set in a modern high school. Can it make the leap to the modern times? Or does it feel outdated?

The Movie

We begin at a high school basketball game. The Hawks are down by one with just 28 seconds left, but they have the ball and the best player on the team, Odin James. The coach, Duke Goulding explains the play, which is to use two players, including his son, Hugo, to act as decoys, while Odin is setup for the game winning shot. And if Odin doesn't break free from his cover, Michael is to take the shot instead. Hugo isn't even allowed to touch the ball. After the game, Coach Duke awards Odin the MVP, even says he's like a son to him. Odin turns around and shares the honor with Michael, who is also his best friend.

At the celebration party, Hugo decides he's tired of not getting the attention he thinks he deserves, so he decides to break up Odin and Desi Brable. His first plan is to get Roger to tell Desi's father, Dean Brable that Odin raped his Desi. Roger goes along, because he has a crush on Desi and Hugo says he will get her on the rebound. That plan doesn't work, although Dean Brable does learn that Odin and Desi are dating. The night before the next big game, Odin sneaks into Desi's window to give her a gift, a scarf. Desi's best friend, Emily is also there.

The next game goes the same as the first with the Hawks winning thanks in part to Odin's play, but Odin is injured in the game. It is serious enough that he's sent to the hospital (he was knocked unconscious) but it was not serious enough to keep him overnight. Later at the celebration party, Odin tells Desi that he wants to get married, not now, but soon. Meanwhile, Hugo gets Michael really drunk and sets up a fight between Michael and Roger. It's not hard to do, as Odin and Michael knew it was Roger who accused Odin of raping Desi, plus Michael has a history of bullying Roger. As a result of the fight, Michael is suspended from the team for three games. After Coach Duke hands down the suspension, Michael and Odin have a fight. This is when Hugo puts the second part of his plan into play. He tells Michael he needs Odin to talk to the coach to get back on the team. He says the only way to do that is to become friends with Desi, so that Desi can convince Odin to do this. Meanwhile, he plants suspicion in Odin's mind that Desi is cheating on him with Michael.

That's about as far as we can go before we get into spoiler territory.

This movie was shot in 1999, the same year that 10 Things I Hate About You, but didn't come out till 2001, the same year as Get Over It, which was also a modern Shakespearean adaptation. Although, since both of those are comedies, one could argue it has more in common with Romeo+Juliet, from a few years earlier, which is a fellow tragedy. By some strange coincidence, I've previously reviewed all three movies. Where does O (Othello) fit in this? It is closer to Get Over It than 10 Things I Hate About You. (Romeo+Juliet is such a strange movie that it is nearly impossible to compare the film to anything else, except other Baz Luhrmann movies.)

Most of the problem comes from the film's source material, which doesn't translate well into modern times. In the Shakespearean era, it might have made sense for the characters to act this way. After all, in the original play, the main male characters were all soldiers with political positions, so murder plots make a whole lot of sense. I never really believed Hugo's motivations for going as far as he did in this film. Only a serious, undiagnosed mental illness would explain what he did. Likewise, Odin goes from wanting to marry Desi to believing she's cheating on him far too easily. He had already been the victim of rumors, so why would he turn around and believe them so easily. It made more sense in the original play, because in the play the rumors were true. Othello did elope with Desdemona. If you don't believe the motivations of the antagonist and you don't believe how easily the protagonist could be manipulated, there's little here to hold the plot together.

On the other hand, there are some good performances in this movie, but that's not enough.

The Extras

Extras begin with ten minutes of deleted scenes and conclude with seven minutes of interviews. The technical presentation is weak. There are a few too many instances of print damage, which hurts the overall score. Additionally, the level of detail is only good at the best of times, while the colors are inconsistent with too many scenes feeling muted. It is also only 1080i and not 1080p. The audio is a little better with clear dialogue, but there's generally not a lot of ambient sound. On the other hand, it only costs $12.29, so fans of the movie should be satisfied.

The Verdict

O (Othello) didn't work for me, because I didn't think the plot of the original movie translated well into a modern high school setting. If you are a soldier and you kill for a living, then killing someone over charges of infidelity makes at least a modicum of sense. It makes absolutely no sense for a high school basketball player to do the same, especially when the evidence was so weak. The Blu-ray is shovelware and the technical presentation is not good compared to what the format has to offer, but the price isn't bad, if you are a fan of the movie.

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