The Tempest

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As an English major, I love Shakespeare. Just to explain what a nerd I am, in high school I use to memorize his soliloquies for fun. Yeah, I didn’t have many friends then. But I digress. Because of my love of Shakespeare, I really wanted to see this movie, based on the Bard’s famous play of the same name.

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In this 2010 rendition of the Tempest, directed by Julie Taymor, the Sorceress Prospera (Helen Mirren) attempts to exact her revenge on her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) and the King of Naples (David Sthrathairn) for stealing her duchy of Milan from her. The King’s ship sails by the island Prospera inhabits with her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) and she uses her magic to create a tempest to sink the ship, washing the men to shore. Prospera doesn’t count on the King’s son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) falling in love with her daughter.

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This movie received many mixed reviews, and I myself have pretty mixed feelings. There are some really awesome things about it, and other things that are less awesome.

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On the good side, if you are also a Shakespeare fan, or have ever read The Tempest, you know that in the original play, the main character is a man named Prospero. Changing the character into a woman, especially one played by the indomitable Helen Mirren, is an inspired choice that brings a whole new dynamic to the story. Who says old writing can’t be made new? And even if that isn’t recognized, I just love watching Helen Mirren act anyway. I am one of the only people I know who actually enjoyed the film The Queen, and I correctly predicted that she would win the Oscar for Best Actress. She also does an Elizabeth I that rivals Judie Dench and Cate Blanchett. And she does a mean Prospera. There are moments you can tell she is full of hatred and you know not to mess with her, and others that she is vulnerable and you want to reach out and hug her. Or maybe that’s just me having a weird Helen Mirren crush.

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As far as bad, I mainly did not like the score. This movie attempted using rock and roll, although at least it did a better job than Marie Antoinette. God awful movie. Anyway, the score was basically made up of steel guitars, and it sounded so out of place. I didn’t mind that the music was anachronistic, it just sounded wrong. I think the main problem was in quite a few scenes the guitars got really loud, and was more distracting than anything. It probably would have been a lot better if they were just quieter.

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Most critics had problems with the special effects. I honestly thought some of the special effects were beautiful and interesting and added to the story, but some of them were in the case of fiery dogs that chased after Caliban,  done so poorly that all you could do was laugh at them, or just so overdone that they were  distracting and detracted from the story by competing with it. However, I especially loved the special effects used for the spirit Ariel, one of Prospera’s slaves. The effects make Ariel seem weightless and constantly underwater. The images help you understand his character. As a spirit, he’s ethereal and not of the earth. But, I do agree with most of the critics that Taymor really needed to dial it back on most of the other CG elements. Less is more. Yes, I’m talking to you, Michael Bay.

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Since my feelings are very mixed, I give The Tempest a 5 out of 10. I would recommend any Helen Mirren fans and especially any Shakespeare fans to give it a try. It is a lot of fun.

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