Time to hop into the time travel machine and go back to the first play I reviewed at the beginning of this project because I finally got my hands on a copy of the DVD. So if you need to refresh your memory, you can take a look at my original post on The Tempest. Now, if you have all the crazy details fresh in your brain, take a look at the trailer and then move on to the review.
So obviously the biggest thing about this adaptation is that Prospero is now Prospera, which adds a whole whammy of gender politics to the fact that she was ousted from her dukedom and banished to the island. Helen Mirren does an excellent job of carrying the role, but I almost feel as though she hasn’t been challenged enough in the production. She’s wonderful as always, but not quite the level of awesome I’d hoped for. There are quite a few big name actors hanging out in this film, which makes for interesting viewing. I particularly liked Felicity Jones, who plays Miranda and does an excellent job of being of being both pretty while also keeping the character from being a bit of a limp prop. However, I did feel bad for her as she spends the entire film in bare feet and some of the locations do not look like they’d be kind to the feet. The actor playing Ferdinand is also pretty and the two of them make a nice couple and they also manage to keep the chess scene from being completely ludicrous.
The costumes for the most part (ignoring Miranda who hangs around in very cute but thoroughly modern dresses) are Elizabethan with a twist. There are capes and doublets but of unusual fabrics, and when Prospera finally puts on a dress, it’s very proper but there are zippers all over it. The odd exception is Russell Brand as Trinculo who just appears to be wearing some of his regular clothes. It’s also important to note that Brand is the only spots of funny in the entire film, which makes him far more endearing than usual. A final point about appearance and then we’ll move on. The make-up for Caliban is gross, intriguing, and thoroughly creepy, which really makes a character whose essentially wearing a loin cloth, much more interesting to look at.
There is no denying that the locations used for this film are stunning (unsurprising, since it was made in Hawaii) and really run the gamut from sharp coastal lines, weird desert-like spaces, and dense jungle. They play a tremendous role in making the weirdness that happens over the course of the film, far more plausible. The score is also a little different, with a heavy reliance on electric guitar which is an interesting choice for a Shakespeare film. It’s used really effectively during the storm scene at the beginning of the film but comes off as a little weird in the other places where it appears. The set design for Prospera’s “cell” is also really gorgeous and again contributes to the believability of the magic.
However, the best thing in this film is Ariel. The character is made visually intriguing by the effects that are used to show his movement (as you can see in the trailer), but he also varies in levels of transparency when actually visible to Prospera. While the actor does have to do some interesting contortions with his legs in order to keep man bits from sight in a few scenes, he’s intriguing to look at, and after Miranda and Ferdinand, is the most sympathetic character in the film.
Visually intriguing but definitely on the weirder side. Probably best viewed only by real film fans or those really interested in seeing an adaptation of The Tempest. Also interesting from a feminist standpoint of having Helen Mirren play a role originally intended for a man. Shakespeare would approve, I think.
Back to the plays again next week when I’ll be talking about Love’s Labour’s Lost.