Julie Taymor releases what she must think, is a ‘hopeful’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. That’s all it is… hopeful. Nothing more. The glimpses of creativity are outweighed by what seems at times, a laughable execution. Irrelevant of Prospero undergoing a sex change, Helen Mirren undeniably prospers as the female Prospera. Taymor’s change comes as an interesting twist, placing the character on a parallel with the evil witch Sycorax – something that, arguably, Shakespeare’s version fails to do.
Moreover, it is arousing to see the conveying of the mother-daughter relationship between Prospera and Miranda unfold, in contrast to the original father-daughter relationship. However, for the larger part of the film it simply doesn’t do justice; ‘A noble stab at the Bard but ultimately an unsatisfactory film’ (A. HUNTER, Daily Express, March 4, 2011). Throughout the course of the film, I tried to remain optimistic.
For every time Ben Whishaw pranced around butt-naked on my screen to my discomfort as Ariel, for every time the revolting, out-dated and overused CGI complemented by the irksome 70’s rock-like non diagetic score braced my senses, and for every time I sought to just wish a tempest upon Taymor, for tarnishing Djimon Honsou‘s dignity by casting him as an abominable Caliban – which dare I say John Gorrie’s 1980’s Caliban portrays more convincingly… I remained patiently optimistic.
But then it was too much to bear. The oddity that astounded completely was Russell Brand, appearing as, well… himself. Brand isn’t suited for film. His overdramatic performance as Trinculo could prove effective in a potential stage adaptation, as Shakespeare’s comical characters are usually exaggerated. But never on film. It feels that Brand’s casting is associated purely, with the intent of attracting a younger audience – A form of trickery that even Prospera would be proud of. His very presence from the introduction seemed spoof-like. Even though I tried, I just could not him seriously, even as the drunkard that is Trinculo – a character that arguably is closer aligned to his real life personality!
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… Russell Brand, Djimon Honsou and Alfred Molina, all run across the frame, being chased by what seems like cartoon dog hounds – prancing and shrieking like melodramatic school girls. Simply atrocious. I was baffled as to whether the intended effect was to laugh with them or at them. I did neither – merely shook my head in disbelief. “You can easily go in a direction that makes Caliban a buffoon, but you’re missing when you do that”, quotes Taymor in an interview (when asked about the prospect of playing into stereotypes with the characterisation of Caliban).
Maybe, just maybe, Taymor should acknowledge her own critiques, as in this case she is completely “missing” in her depiction (deja vu for Taymor… need I mention her critically panned adaptation of Spider-Man). Taymor ‘’misses’’ out integral dynamics that Shakespeare strived so stoutly to establish; the love-hate relationship (prior to slave-master relationship) between Caliban and Prospero, and not to mention, the crucial epilogue, in which Prospero requests the audience to set him free – arguably the scene in which equilibrium is conclusively restored.
If you happen to be in the cinema, wanting to see a compelling film adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s works, and are considering this one… run. Run as far as you can and don’t look back. However, if you are in the company of precocious kids, and want a balance between Scooby-Doo type humour and a ‘tragicomedy’ narrative – Julie Taymor’s ‘The Tempest’ is for you.