‘Something wicked this way comes’ in first Apple TV+ Macbeth trailer

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Joel Cohen writes for the stage and directs the Apple TV+ adaptation of Shakespeare's bloody classic.
Joel Cohen writes for the stage and directs the Apple TV+ adaptation of Shakespeare's bloody classic.
Photo: Apple TV+

A dreary and ominous fog washes over the first Apple TV+ trailer for The Tragedy of Macbeth. That sets a suitably dark tone for the adaptation of the bloody Shakespeare classic from writer and director Joel Cohen. Black birds circle overhead.

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes,” intones a witch’s voice, heard over bleak, black-and-white scenes of castle and court. Figures loom. A crown is gathered up from the dirt. A lady turns abruptly from a high window.

Macbeth trailer: mysterious and dark

The whole trailer runs about 48 seconds, including the dissolve to the Apple TV+ logo, so don’t expect to know everything — or much of anything — about the film.

But if you know your Shakespeare, you know the classic play is about a nobleman and his lady murdering their way to power in Scotland at the price of their sanity. Sorry for the spoiler, but the play came out in 1606, so deal with it.

Strong cast

But certain things are, of course, revealed — like a star-studded cast. The black-and-white adaptation stars Denzel Washington (Fences, Flight) as the murderous Lord Macbeth and Frances McDormand (Fargo, Nomadland) as the scheming Lady Macbeth.

Other cast members include Alex Hassell (Henry V), Corey Hawkins (The Walking Dead), Kathryn Hunter (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Harry Melling (Harry Potter), Moses Ingram (The Queen’s Gambit) and Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter).

With a cast like that, it’s no wonder there are Academy Award hopes for the film.

Shot like a play

You can also surmise from the imagery in the trailer — even with all that fog — that the film is shot on sound stages rather than on location. Director Coen (The Big Lebowski, Fargo) has said he prefers the “unreality” of sound stages.

And speaking of Cohen, this film is his solo directorial debut. In other words, it’s the first time either he or his brother, Ethan Cohen, have helmed a film project without the other one.

As far as previous experience with cast members goes, Cohen is married to lead actress McDormand, who starred in the Coen brothers’ Fargo and Blood Simple. Brendan Gleeson appeared in their The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Other adaptations

Joel Coen’s Macbeth adaptation joins those that came before, such as Macbeth, directed by and starring Orson Welles, and Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa’s samurai version.

The Tragedy of Macbeth comes to theater screens on December 25 and to the AppleTV+ streaming service on January 14, 2022. Subscribe to Apple TV+ for $4.99 per month or via any tier of the Apple One subscription service.