Based on what is said to be Shakespeare’s final play, Prospera (Helen Mirren in a gender-switched role) is a mad sorceress who, along with her 16-year-old daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones), has been surviving on an island for 12 years after Propera’s brother cast them both on a raft to die.
Propera claims the island and all it’s inhabitants including Caliban (Djimon Hounsou).
The story here is Propera performs a tempest where she causes a ship carrying the King of Naples (David Strathairn) to shipwreck on the island.
The crew is broken up with the King of Naples traveling with his members of the royal court. Caliban runs into two of the ship’s eccentric sailors (played by Alfred Molina and Russell Brand) and join forces with them to plot against Prospera. Then, Propera and Miranda run into the King of Naples’ young son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), who, he and Miranda, eventually fall in love.
The Tempest is directed by Julie Taymor who has directed theatre, opera and films such as Frida and the Beatles musical Across the Universe. While the costumes are a plus, the visuals are pretty and it’s got great actors, the movie is a terribly told story.
First off, you’ve got three subplots regarding characters who are shipwrecked, yet you don’t ever see the shipwreck or the crew split apart. They just wake up on the island, and just walk around on rocks and shout to each other.
If you are not familiar with Shakespeare, switching the subtitles on will not help at all because the whole script is made up of sonnets and pronouns. Not even the costumes (which are dry from said shipwreck?) help to imply whether these characters are sailors or kings.
The whole film feels like exposition. While the look is there, the characters are never engaging and nothing feels at stake here. You can’t just tie live actors and fantasy together with beautiful location shots and glimmering special effects to tell an epic story.
There are attempts to be funny but the whole film is unintentionally camp because the actors give awkwardly-unsubtle performances. Helen Mirren is a foreboding Prospera and Felicity Jones is angel-faced, but everyone must have received a memo from the director saying “We’re bringing theatre to film. Do whatever it is you do well on stage”. Everyone, except for Russell Brand, who looks like he just improvised on set. All the actors are credible, but as an ensemble, they don’t belong in the same universe. Once again, Russell Brand looks like he’s just being his usual distinguished, flamboyantly-British self.
The Tempest does have a lot of potential to be like Lord of the Rings, but for all the massive talent that has clearly gone into it, the result is a dull and forgettable experience.