The key question in this assignment was, "How does this adaptation capture the mood and atmosphere of the original script?"
Keep in mind that in this adaptation, the characters are thrust forward into 20th Century Verona Beach, and use guns instead of swords. While they are still families, they resemble gangs. It's a more modern adaptation in setting and action, but they use the Old English that we are all so familiar with. The setting is pretty much perfect. While some people were not sure it would work, it did, and the end result is fascinating. I've been a fan of Baz's work forever, and this just adds to my love of his work.
Using anyone else other than Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo and Juliet probably would have resulted in failure. They are pretty much the whole mood and atmosphere. Without them, I'm fairly certain that Baz Luhrman would not have been able to pull it off.
I realize that a lot of people did not like this movie, but I think it's a lot better than Zeffirelli's 1968 version. The actors in that one were flat, and pretty boring. They had little to no emotion. While shooting the 1996 version, Claire Danes reported that when Leo was giving the speech that ends with "Thus with a kiss, I die..." she was supposed to be dead, but he brought her to tears, and they had to cut as soon as Leo stopped talking, or they would ruin the take. If that's not emotion, I'm not sure what is.
I think that if I were to suggest an adaptation to watch, I would definitely go with this one. It's pretty much perfect.