MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Theatrical director Julie Taymor brings her own interpretation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to the big screen. She had orchestrated the play before on the stage, but now with the help of digital effects and modern filmmaking techniques, “The Tempest” gets a unique treatment in movie form.
The story set forth by Shakespeare is a mystical fantasy in which an exiled sorceress (Helen Mirren) shipwrecks her enemies with a storm. However, when the prince aboard the vessel falls in love with her daughter, the sorceress’s revenge plot becomes more complicated.
Adapting Shakespeare to the modern screen is always a challenge for several reasons. Not only have the plays been done hundreds of times in various forms, but it’s also difficult to balance the elements of theatrical acting with poetic dialogue and modern tastes. For the most part, the actors are comfortable with their lines, even for the lesser actors. Let’s face it, no one expects Helen Mirren to stumble, but you never quite know what will happen when Russell Brand sets foot in front of the camera.
The real focus of this film isn’t necessarily the characters or how they interact with each other. Rather, this is a visual film, like anything that Julie Taymor does. Similar to how “Across the Universe” painted on the canvas of the film itself, “The Tempest” achieves things that are impossible to see in a live theater performance. This makes it, at the very least, a visually stimulating and interesting film.
It’s odd to say that, I’ll admit, especially considering the original writer. Though that’s what makes this movie most intriguing. Hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare would have never imagined this story could look like Taymor’s vision. From the tempest storm itself to the visual landscape where the characters reside to the way the magic is brought to life in other areas, this is the movie’s strength.
In the end, “The Tempest” is a decent film. It’s not the best delivered Shakespeare adaptation from a character standpoint, but aside from Baz Lurhmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” it’s unique in its visionary adaptation.
The Blu-ray comes with a director’s commentary and a music video for the film. There’s also a long-form documentary about the making of the film called “Raising The Tempest” as well as Shakespeare annotations that can be embedded into the film itself. Finally, there’s behind-the-scenes footage of the Los Angeles rehearsals and an improvised in-character riff with Russell Brand.