I’m not a fan of Shakespeare. I think if you have to take a literature course to even understand the dialogue, that’s not an effective form of communication or drama. But, I accept that it is an art form that exists, and sometimes people make interesting adaptations out of it (my favorite: Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet: THE GANGSTA VERSION!)
The Tempest is not one of the good ones, which surprises me because I have liked Julie Taymor’s other movies. I didn’t see Titus, which was the other Shakespeare one, but loved Frida and Across the Universe both for visuals and content. Never saw her stage productions but figured she’d have something interesting to contribute.
The interesting visuals are minimal in The Tempest so the film relies mostly on the text. The story of an island hermit’s manipulative games with some shipwreck survivors isn’t quite as deep as star crossed lovers or political treachery. Als the spirit is stupid.
Prospero is now Prospera so that Helen Mirren can star, so I guess whenever Miranda (Felicity Jones) calls her mother, that used to say father. The spirit (Ben Whishaw) does Prospera’s bidding and appears as bizarre visions. These are the most Tamor-esque visuals, but they’re ridiculous. The black bird look is silly and I don’t understand why he has tits. Not since Jaye Davidson has a man made me want to cop a feel.
There’s actually very little Prospera, so not much Mirren. We have to spend a lot of time with Caliban (Djimon Honsou), Trinculo (Russell Brand) and Stephano (Alfred Molina). They just bumble around and it’s embarrassing. It’s like high class stupidity. They can dress it up with fancy talk but it’s still stupid. King Alonso (David Strathairn), Sebastian (Alan Cumming), Antonio (Chris Cooper) and Gonzalo (Tom Conti) try to bring the gravitas but it just feels like filler until all three parties collide. (And when they do, man, oh man, they talk some more.)
The film feels desperate to visualize a play that’s all talk. There are a few nice sets, Prospera’s castle with the angular staircases, her cave with the pool. They look like a Broadway stage captured on camera. The visual effects are a distraction. The rock music video storm sequence just drowns out all the Shakespearian dialogue.
The Tempest film is like high school trip to the theater. It’s better than sitting in class, but I still can’t follow the dialogue and don’t care about the story. It already took me too long to write this review and figure out who played what and why they were in the movie.