The Tempest

13 Oct

By josh

When a new ‘Shakespeare’ movie comes out, it’s normally a stuffy, tightly budgeted acting affair starring Kenneth Branagh. Or, it’s a teen-movie remake starring Julia Stiles. But, what it isn’t is a big deal. Not since Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet in ’96, and Shakespeare in Love in ’98, has a William Shakespeare movie made big waves with both audiences and critics. And when a new film does come out, it normally hits only the art houses, and advertising and promotion is at a minimum. There just isn’t big money in the ‘Bard’ anymore. However, that doesn’t keep Hollywood from mining the folio, and each year we continue to get more and more adaptations, including this year’s highly stylized The Tempest, by stage and screen director Julie Taymor. The first trailer is out, and it doesn’t seem to be your typical Shakespeare snoozer…

Widely regarded to be Shakespeare’s final play, Taymor updates this revenge tale with a female Prospera, the banished witch played by Helen Mirren, a list of respected actors (Alfred Molina, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper, David Strathairn), and a grab bag of young pretty faces (Ben Whishaw, Reeve Carney, Felicity Jones). Oh yeah, and Russell Brand is in it, too. The story keeps true to Shakespeare, and without getting all into it (Shakespeare weaves a very tangled web), I’ll just say that Mirren causing a shipwreck leading to a happy ending for all the good people is what you can expect. Taymor loads the film up with fancy special effects and lots of eye-popping color, and with a cameo by Sigur Ros in the trailer, let’s hope some progressive music choices as well.

Now, as a film director, Taymor has a handful of high concept projects under her belt, like Titus, Frida, and the Beatles-based Across the Universe. On Broadway, Taymor made a name for herself with the ground-breaking production of The Lion King, and this year’s bombastic Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, featuring music by Bono and The Edge. In short, she doesn’t go small. The special effects scenes with Ariel, the spirit played by Whishaw, are huge. The shipwreck and the costumes and the performances – all are shaping up for a sexier Shakespeare, rather than the stuffy one we’re used to. And what about Russell Brand? The crude comedian tackling high-brow literature? His recent performances have proved he is a charming and mischievous actor, but trying a hand at Shakespeare, along such well-respected talent, may prove to be a glaring mistake.

So, will it suck?

No. For the first time in years, we’re finally getting a Shakespeare adaptation that stays true to the text, but doesn’t completely bore us to death. Sure it’s a sacred script to take on, but it’s 400 years later, and the Bard can use a little sprucing up for ADD-America. Luhrmann’s Romeo proved that if you dressed it up right, teens will fall all over themselves for Shakespeare, and let’s not forget that film stuck firmly to its Shakespearean dialogue; no modern-day translation. It’s all about making the story accessible to modern audiences, and with Taymor’s style, and Russell Brand’s youth appeal, it’s a far cry from Branagh’s retellings. It won’t hit the teen audiences the way Romeo + Juliet did, but dare we say that Shakespeare might actually be cool again?

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One Response to “The Tempest”

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  1. In Theaters This Weekend: December movie season officially starts with a low roar « Will It Suck? - December 11, 2010

    […] The Fighter might float like a butterfly, but misses on the sting. Also in limited release is The Tempest, director Julie Taymor’s flashy update of Shakespeare’s last play. However, with Taymor’s […]

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