Mel Gibson's "Hamlet" is a more straightforward, highly edited version of the original text in comparison to Kenneth Branagh's extravagant version of the same tale. The setting chosen for Branagh's and Gibson's castle are very different. The bright and dark castle settings symbolically reinforce the specific themes each director emphasizes. For example, the gloomy Gibson feels perfectly at home in his dark mansion, an ideal place for a grieving soul to maintain its regretful origin. On the other hand, the meditative Branagh is continuously catching glimpses of himself and others in the mirror-lined rooms of his castle. Since Hamlet is truly a ghost story, each director has handled these special effects rather differently. Gibson gives a more stage-like handling of the ghost of Hamlet's father, using only lighting to cast an strange glow or gleaming shadows on its actors. Mel Gibson portrays a brooding, sullen-browed young Hamlet--moody, miserable yet clever and cunning, and always lurking in the dark corners of this ever-somber castle. By contrast, Brannagh commands the screen with a Hamlet more brash and emboldened than Gibson's, a determined young man whose bright and wealthy surroundings reflect a very intellectual, socially and politically smart strategist. Both walk the line between sanity and madness, without ever fully crossing over.
Gibson's Hamlet is more realistic to that time period, but I like Branagh's movie better. The "to be" soliloquy is different in each movie. Branagh knows that the King is spying on him. In Gibson's edition, Hamlet is in private and they aren't spying on him. Ophelia is present during the soliloquy in Branagh's movie. She isn't in Gibson's. Both films are different and effective, depending on how you look at it.