I love Shakespeare’s work. Who doesn’t? His use of the English
language remains unparalleled so many centuries later and his stories
continue to stir the imagination to this day. The tragic King Lear, the
corrupt Macbeth, the mad Hamlet and even those young fools Romeo and
Juliet are all dear to me, though I much prefer the Bard’s more comedic
work. I still have fond memories of working backstage, making fairies
fly in a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I still
love the characters of that play — especially the merry Puck — and all
of their various comical misunderstandings. Likewise, I have a great
soft spot for The Tempest.

By its very nature, The Tempest is visually extraordinary, demanding
spectacular acts of magic and wonderfully colorful costumes. There’s
also a huge spectrum of roles to play, from the comedic Stephano and
Trinculo to the conniving Antonio and Sebastian. In between, there’s the
proud and downtrodden Caliban along with the airy prankster Ariel, not
to mention that ever-shifting triangle of Prospero, Miranda and
Ferdinand. The Tempest is a revenge tale as acted out by comedic
characters. It ultimately becomes a story of forgiveness and sacrifice
with a wonderful blend of drama and comedy unique to Shakespeare’s
collected work.

Which brings me to The Tempest, a cinematic adaptation of the
play as directed by Julie Taymor. Take a
look at the trailer

First and foremost: Look at that cast! Seriously, just look at it.

Helen Mirren is clearly bringing her A-game to this and that’s saying
a lot. In this trailer, I see the fierce intelligence, commanding
presence and veiled weariness that the role of Prospera hinges on and
I’ll be damned if she doesn’t deliver Shakespeare’s dialogue like the
pro she is. Swapping Prospero’s gender is an unorthodox move, but it’s
one I’ve seen before. It adds a uniquely powerful female role to the
play (quite possibly the most powerful female character in all of
Shakespeare’s plays) and adds a new dimension to the power struggle
between Prospera and Antonio. I can’t wait to see what Taymor and Mirren
do with it.

Alfred Molina is a wonderful actor and I’m greatly anxious to see him
take on the Bard’s work. Casting him in a purely comedic role was a
stroke of genius, doubly so for the inspired move of casting Russell
Brand as the jester Trinculo. As for Caliban, I have complete respect
for Djimon Hounsou and the earthly, vengeful aspects of Caliban are
coming through loud and clear. However, his comedic chops are unproven
so far as I know, and he’s going to need them if he’s going to keep up
with Molina and Brand.

Chris Cooper can do villainous without a problem and Alan Cumming can
deliver a mix of comedy and villainy that perfectly suits the material.
The only real question marks that I can see are with Miranda and
Ferdinand. The two of them are oddly absent from the trailer and given
their central role in the story, that raises my eyebrow a bit. We only
see a bit of them, and I’ve gotta say that I wasn’t impressed with the
line delivery. What’s more, their IMDB pages both yield absolutely
nothing noteworthy. I just need more.

I also need to see more of Ariel, but that goes without saying as
he’s my favorite character in the play. Still, I see that Taymor is
portraying him as more of a CG effect and that’s as it should be. I
especially like the contrast of the shiny, fluid, ethereal Ariel against
the rough, gritty, earthy look of Caliban. That’s basically the essence
of the two characters and I’m glad to see that Taymor is playing it to
the hilt.

Of course, Taymor has been known to make visually staggering
productions even at the worst of times (*coughAcrosstheUniversecough*).
In this case, it looks like Taymor won’t disappoint. The CGI looks like
it could use a bit more polish, but I generally like how the magic looks
and the costumes are suitably wonderful. What’s more, the island looks
very diverse in its ecosystem (well, it is a magic island) and it looks
wonderfully shot.

The Tempest will be released in theaters on December 10th.
This looks to me like one to watch.