In Julie Taymor's version of 'The Tempest,' the main character is now a woman named Prospera. Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft. In Taymor's version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it's a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda. This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect. Written by
Prospera duchess of Milan (Helen Mirren) was cast off with her toddler daughter Miranda by her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper). Antonio subverted her rightful rule after the death of their father. On the island, she enslaves the beast Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) taking control. Twelve years later, Miranda (Felicity Jones) is all grown up. King Alonso (David Strathairn) is sailing back after his daughter and her new husband's wedding with his son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) and Antonio. Prospera takes revenge by unleashing a tempest to wreck their ship and stranding them on her island.
Julie Taymor does Shakespeare by replacing the main male character with a woman. That's basically the bulk of what I took away from it. Shakespearian scholars will have lots more to debate. For the rest of us, this is an acting and writing exercise. Helen Mirren is one of the best actresses around. It feels different to have a woman as Prospera but not necessarily inferior. It feels less intense but maybe almost as compelling. The special effects are not the most well made. At times, it looks like a good TV movie. Julie Taymor doesn't have the best CGI talents. The sparse Hawaiian location is more compelling. More than the usual Greek islands, these locations project power and isolation. The other actors try their best but the men don't excel. Djimon Hounsou gives a reasonably beastly performance. Felicity Jones is overshadowed by Helen Mirren. Other than the locations, I don't have anything outstanding to stake my review on.
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