Julie Taymor once again brings a visually dominant adaptation of another play by William Shakespeare to screen with The Tempest. The fact that The Tempest is not exactly the most accessible of Shakespeare’s plays is handled with a visual flair in all areas of production. Performances are also strong, but somehow I felt disappointed by the end result. It is a fairly faithful adaptation and fairly engaging, but I simply was not sold on the final product.
The film is somewhat difficult to follow if you have no prior knowledge of the play, and occasionally even if you do. Helen Mirren heads up the cast as Prospera, a sorceress exiled to a magical island. When her enemies pass by in a ship she uses her magical powers to create a storm that shipwrecks them on her island. As the helpless men wander the island they are met by magical and mysterious elements, some of which are willing to become allies in the destruction of Prospera.
The cast makes the film worth watching, as it would in any great stage version of a Shakespeare play as well. Mirren is fantastic as always, and she is joined by Russell Brand, though he disappointingly never has the head of an ass. Alfred Molina joins Brand as a shipwrecked and drunk cohort. Also included in the cast is Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper and Djimon Hounsou in an intimidating role. The cast is marvelous, but I feel there may have been more clarity if they had been given more to work with. It is clear that Shakespeare’s work has been abbreviated a great deal in the adaptation and something was lost in the process.
The Blu-ray release of The Tempest includes an exclusive featurette with behind-the-scenes footage of the
rehearsal of the material. Also included is a making-of documentary, also made by Taymor, who also gives a commentary for the film. The best feature, however, is a commentary track with Shakespeare experts Virginia Vaughan and Jonathan Bate. Also included is a music video and footage of Brand going off on a tangent. Los Angeles