- Director:Julie Taymor
- Cast:Russell Brand, Reeve Carney, Alan Cumming, Dijmon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina
- Release Date:April 21, 2011
- Distributor:Walt Disney
- Running time:110 minutes
- Film Worth:$13.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
While this had the potential to be a stirring cinematic experience, director Julie Taymor’s trademark innovation and visual flair never soars.
Director Julie Taymor's ambitious film and theatre work (which includes Frida, Across the Universe, Titus and the recently critically panned but imaginative Broadway production Spiderman: The Musical), has earned her a reputation as an experimental and boldly innovative director. Shakespeare's The Tempest, with its fantasy world of monsters, spirits and mystical creatures, seems like ideal material for Taymor. It's unfortunate then that while this is a solid adaptation, it's never quite the stirring cinematic experience one may have anticipated.
For those not up to scratch with their Shakespeare, The Tempest begins with a fierce (and slightly muddling) shipwreck that sees the members of a royal court washed ashore on a mysterious island. This bunch of survivors is played by a plethora of respectable talent including David Strathairn as the King, and Russell Brand and Alfred Molina as the King's bumbling but amusing jester and butler respectively. Their fateful arrival, however, is no coincidence. The exiled duchess Prospera (a terrific Helen Mirren who manages to be both stony and tender) has used her magical powers to guide the ship there to settle the score with these royals who banished her and her daughter from their homeland twelve years ago.
As the narrative essentially shifts between two groups of shipwrecked survivors stumbling blindly around the island, there's not much momentum thrusting the story forward, and thus almost every scene needs to dazzle. Unfortunately, that's not the case and the film lags in places. When Taymor, however, does hit her groove, it's often stunning. With the action set against evocative landscapes, Taymor's trademark innovative style is perhaps best showcased here via the presence of Prospera's helping spirit, Ariel (played wondrously by Ben Whishaw). Ingeniously created with the aid of CGI, Ariel effortlessly flits in and out of scenes often backed by amazing imagery.
The most radical choice Taymor makes is undoubtedly changing the traditionally male role of Prospera to a woman. Mirren does a fine job but when the final credits roll, one is left asking, what was the point? While the gender reversal does slightly alter the dynamic of the mother-daughter relationship, it suggests far more possibilities than Taymor seems interested in exploring. Interestingly, it has the potential to change the way certain parts of the story are perceived. The fact that Prospera is female, for example, could be seen as part of the reason why her dukedom was stolen from her, and in the end, when Prospera makes the decision to return to the outside world for the sake of her daughter, there is the sense that re-entering society as a woman (and thus a second-class citizen) is a bigger sacrifice. These ideas, however, are hardly fleshed out in any meaningful way. It feels like Taymor raised the stakes by casting a woman but then never rose to the challenge she set herself.