This new contemporary, or more accurately, postmodern adaptation of Shakespeare's final comedy too much of a cinematic chameleon, more underwhelming in its meretricious, too often unstructured presentation.
The Tempest, however, does boast a fine cast led by the grandly versatile Helen Mirren (showing some comedic and military might recently in Red), as well as Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou, and David Strathairn, among the ensemble.
Here, in Julie Taymor's latest creative derring-do that is stylized like her more impressive, involving adaptation of an early Bard play Titus, there is a sexual change for an authoritative Mirren to lead the way as exiled powerful sorceress Prospera, who turns out to be a mercurial, familial presence. One that makes for a muted, occasionally inviting humanistic allegory.
In Taymor's kaledscopic rendering, Prospera dons a cropped coif that appears to befit her age and daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) end up on a magical island thanks to avaricious, usurping brother, now Milan's Duke (Cooper). There, the rugged, muscular Caliban (Hounsou) and slim, chimerical Ariel (Ben Whishaw) cater to someone who can raise much havoc at sea. The chief tension arises with the former as a new dysfunctionality with some palpable acumen at its core.
The Tempest raises light of standing up in a patriarchy as a shipwreck and exploration find Strathairn's Alonso, his brother (Alan Cumming of Burlesque), Prospera's longtime chum Gonzalo (a decent Tom Conti) and Antonio in her new domain. But, the uneven handling of the some vibrantly detailed visual effects with the narrative schematic may not even connect with more devout Bard supporters. Even with notable, if perhaps overly showy backup from the likes of Alfred Molina (Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice) and especially Russell Brand (better in the often outrageous road picture Get Him To The Greek).
However much this discordant new conception (that stretches its rating a little thanks to some candid images) of a classic doesn't inveigle like it should, one can still praise the firmness offered by Mirren against normalcy. Her jaded, gender-defying Prospera can weather a bombastic production with better actorly alchemy than what is more of an enervating, ill-conceived experimental saga than a sophisticated one.