Friday, December 17, 2010


Still from The Tempest
Oh no Julie Taymor, what have you done? With consecutive sub-par efforts Across the Universe and now her adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, the talented Director is hanging on a thread in terms of Critical pardon.

Taymor takes the Comedy/Drama of The Tempest, adapting the original character of Prospero and transforming him here into a Woman - Prospera (Helen Mirren), Duchess of Milan - who has the rare ability to perform Witchcraft.  Prospera is betrayed by her Brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) who tries to usurp her throne by forcing both her and daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) onto a boat, leaving them to die. Trapped on an island, Mother and Daughter are left to their own devices in the name of survival, taking ownership of the land they stumble upon.  They enslave the island's only inhabitant - a creature named Caliban (Djimon Hounsou).

Alonzo (David Strathairn), King of Naples, is on a mission along with Antonio, Sebastian (Alan Cumming) and Gonzalo (Tom Conti) to find his missing Son, Ferdinand (Reeve Carney). Ferdinand however, finds his way onto the island and encounters beautiful Miranda and before long they take a liking to one another, under the watchful eye of a distrustful Prospera.

Meanwhile a spiteful Caliban who rebels against his Master, encounters drunkards Stephano (Alfred Molina) and Trinculo (Russell Brand). Stephano introduces the creature to Alcohol and in his drunken stupor makes Stephano his new Master, promising him ownership of the island controlled by Prospera. With the help of the loyal Spirit Ariel (Ben Whishaw), she is able to be all-seeing and all-knowing, executing the ultimate revenge on her corrupt Brother, while at once defending herself and her beloved Daughter from those looking to overtake her land.

Despite a superb Ensemble Cast and some beautiful visuals, everything amounts to little in The Tempest. The victories are not sweet because the lack of a clear narrative leaves us not knowing who to root for really. Taymor cannot decide if she is being humorous or dramatic, serious or campy. Taymor's most tragic mistake here is her insistence on stylizing the Film with superfluous CGI tricks which act more as a nuisance rather than heightening the moviegoing experience. It worked in Frida well because that was an Art-centric piece, but I am hard-pressed to understand its necessity here. The use of Song and the frequent resurfacing of a naked Ariel becomes a bit of a running joke, drawing unintentional laughter from the Audience. Shakespeare definitely would not approve.

Not even the expected standard of brilliance from Strathairn, Cooper, Cumming, Molina nor Mirren could disguise the weaknesses of this Film adaptation. Surprisingly, hilarious Brand's interpretation here is delightful even if it is era-inappropriate, accounting for some direly needed signs of life. The Tempest is now in theatres, but don't expect it to be there long. Grade: D

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