Iâ€™d like to think of myself a bit of a Shakespeare expert, due in part to the fact that I took a Shakespeare course in high school. Granted, I fell asleep constantly in that class, but I think it qualifies me as a master of all things Shakespearean
But in all seriousness, Iâ€™ve always had a love affair with tales of Shakespeare, namely tragedies like Macbeth and Richard III. But in my travels, Iâ€™ve never gotten to experience The Tempest, up until Julie Taymorâ€™s version was released in theaters. Will this be an adequate introduction to The Tempest or an ambitious interpretation that will lose the concept of one of Shakespeareâ€™s final works?
I’d like to think of myself a bit of a Shakespeare expert, due in part to the fact that I took a Shakespeare course in high school. Granted, I fell asleep constantly in that class, but I think it qualifies me as a master of all things Shakespearean
But in all seriousness, I’ve always had a love affair with tales of Shakespeare, namely tragedies like Macbeth and Richard III. But in my travels, I’ve never gotten to experience The Tempest, up until Julie Taymor’s version was released in theaters. Will this be an adequate introduction to The Tempest or an ambitious interpretation that will lose the concept of one of Shakespeare’s final works?
In The Tempest, Prospera, Duchess of Milan, is dethroned after the death of her husband by her brother, the Duke of Naples, and the Duke’s brother. Prospera and her daughter Miranda are cast out to sea and left for dead. The two end up stranded on a mysterious island with the beast Calliban and claim the island as theirs. Twelve years later, when the opportunity arises to exact vengeance against those who have wronged her, Prospera sends a tempest to wreck the ship that Antonio and his comrades are on and brings them to the island.
Director Julie Taymor, known for her feverish interpretation of The Beatles catalog in Across the Universe and whatever the hell the Spider Man musical on Broadway is supposed to be, brings the same frenetic energy to the world of Shakespeare. Though the word “frenetic” is often times goes hand in hand with quality, here it’s all a bit too much. Taymor trades storytelling for style, often times resulting in these ambitious segments that go little in the way of progressing the story. Added with the disconnect of using the Shakespearean language, and you get a convoluted movie that’s disjointed and often times hard to follow. Following several storylines at once, the progression and flow into each segment feels brash, leaving the audience confused.
The performances are quite strong, with each character playing their part in the grand scheme of things. Helen Mirren as Prospera is powerful and moving, leaving me to think how Prospero as a male even worked to begin with. Djimon Hounsou is both frightening yet endearing, with his makeup greatly supplementing his performance as the best Caliban. The highlight (for me at least) was Russell Brand and Alfred Molina as Trinculo and Stephano, both who provided much needed comic relief. Though Russell Brand is playing the same flamboyant drunken idiot he always plays, he provided such delight when he was paired with Molina, and the duo shared so much chemistry that was all too short. However, the only performance that I did not find particularly compelling was that of weird ladyboy Reeve Carney as Prince Ferdinand. In one extremely awkward scene, Prince Ferdinand serenades Miranda, which is something that I think was supposed to be romantic and endearing but just ended up being downright creepy. Additionally, it turns out Reeve Carney is playing Spider Man in Taymor’s Spider Man musical, and I almost feel like she used this opportunity to shove it down people’s throat that he’s the next biggest star when he’s clearly not. Oh well.
I can’t quite judge the story considering I’ve never read the source material, but as far as Taymor’s delivery of the story, it left much to be desired. A lot of development and dialogue was rushed through, leaving the film to feel like a feverish dream or a bad acid trip. By the end of the film, I felt like I was hungover or sobering up from a terrible all night binge. It was a beautiful film, without a doubt, but I have to ask at what cost do you sacrifice visuals for story.
Overall Score: 5.85 – Bad. (5s are movies that either failed at reaching the goals it set out to do, or didn’t set out to do anything special and still had many flaws. Some will enjoy 5s, but unless you’re a fan of this genre, you shouldn’t see it, and might not even want to rent it.)
If you’re a fan of The Tempest, I feel like it would be worth seeing Taymor’s interpretation if only to verse yourself. If you’ve never read it (like me), then you’re much better off without it and should probably experience it on stage instead. The Tempest is nothing more than a blur with Shakespearean language and an amazing cast and trippy visuals. It has that much going for it, but at the same time accomplishes so little and contributes nothing much in the way of modern Shakespeare adaptations.