- Actors: Helen Mirren
- Format: NTSC
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English, Spanish
- Region: Region A/1
- Number of discs: 2
- Studio: eOne Films Distribution
- Release Date: Jan. 10 2012
- Run Time: 110 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- ASIN: B0068FKYC0
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #19,491 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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The Tempest [Blu-ray + DVD]
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Technically, Shakespeare predates the Internet. But in the case of Julie Taymor's dark, swirling adaptation of "The Tempest," this rule applies -- the legendary wizard Prospero becomes Prospera, played by the peerless Helen Mirren. The gender-flip does give the character a subtle feminist quality, but the story actually remains mostly unchanged -- and definitely supported by a solid cast, a bleak island, and some lovely special effects.
Many years ago, the Duchess of Milan Prospera (Mirren) was left the care of the city by her late husband. But her treacherous brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) accuses her of witchcraft, and exiles her and her daughter Miranda to sea.
Now Prospera dwells on a remote island with the teenaged Miranda (Felicity Jones), as well as the rebellious slave Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) and the ethereal Ariel (Ben Whishaw). When she discovers that Antonio and his similarly treacherous friends are nearby on a sailing ship, Prospera summons a storm that causes the ship to crash on the island, and has Ariel guide them all there.
Like a puppet-master, Prospera arranges events as she wants -- she sends Ariel to haunt the men who betrayed her, allows Caliban to get up to wacky hijinks with a pair of drunken idiots (Alfred Molina, Russell Brand), and even pretends to treat the young prince Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) badly while secretly matchmaking him with Miranda. In the end, everything will be as she desired.
Gender-flipping Prospero apparently wasn't for some kind of feminist point -- it was simply that director Julie Taymor couldn't think of a male actor she wanted in the role. The only Prospero she could think of was Helen Mirren. And it actually works pretty well -- consider as the explanation for Prospera's banishment being accusations of witchcraft, a claim often made against women of power and intelligence. And her return to Milan is symbolized by her abandoning her flowing sorceress' robes in favor of a tight, rigid corset.
Furthermore, it doesn't change the character much -- the fierce cold intelligence, the manipulations, and the fierce love for Miranda are intact. Helen Mirren doesn't soften up her acting or play into any sexist stereotypes -- her Prospera is all swirling power, anger and determination, able to threaten Ariel with imprisonment in a tree in one scene, and tenderly say that she loves him "dearly" in another.
And the rest of the cast is pretty awesome as well -- Hounsou, David Strathairn, Alan Cumming, Cooper and the rest give solid smaller performances, and Brand and Molina are excellent as the idiotic comic relief ("Oh, defend me!"). Carney doesn't work as Ferdinand, though -- he's such a wispy, feminine presence that it's hard to see him as Miranda's knight in shining armor.
But the greatest supporting role is Ben Whishaw as the androgynous Ariel -- his passionate acting and the special effects turn Ariel into a wispy, darting creature of moonlight transparency. Whishaw especially seems to be having fun when Ariel torments the ship with fire and wind, or transforms into a black-feathered harpy jeering at the stranded men.
The entire movie takes place on a dusty, stony island that looks like it recently popped up from a volcanic eruption -- in other words, a perfect blank canvas. While Taymor gives suitable attention to the comedy, she's most at home with the dark, swirling magic around Prospera -- spinning magical symbols, the shape-shifting Ariel (costumes and CGI), and a kaleidoscopic spell of dancing air sprites and whispered Shakespearean text. It's mesmerizing.
"The Tempest" has a few weak spots, but mostly it's a darkly enchanting story of magic, love and manipulation -- and the changing of the lead character's gender doesn't change it at all. A fascinating Shakespeare adaptation.
2 f-bombs (Hey I had the subtitles on!) no sex, brief Ariel nudity?
It is impossible to have lived in the cinematic world and not come across any the other productions by Julie Taymor. With each of her productions she does not copy but enhances the originals in a unique way. In this case we have quite a few deviations. However as long as you are aware of the original play you can appreciate the deviations. Prospero is replaced by Prospera (Helen Mirren) one of the greatest actresses of our time. Julie's approach is different but does not go off the deep end and re-create a whole new story; as the story is just enhanced by dynamic technology and cinematic capabilities not available in earlier productions. And naturally a mother daughter story will have some different outlook than a father daughter story.
The only drawback is the curt runtime forcing some reduction in dialog and addition of references.
Added plusses of course first include Helen Mirren. Also the location (various untraded locations in Hawaii) is perfect. The underwater or through water scenes gave an ethereal feel.
part and [Helen Mirren] did a fantastic job of it.my goodness it's so good to see someone
really think outside the preverbal Dam Box thank you miss [Julie Taymor]
there is nothing else to be said about this master piece of a movie you have to
see it. hands down Five Stars.I Love It.
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