How to summarize Shakespeare? As with the Bard’s other plays, this one is chock-full of deceit, mistaken identity, revenge, nobility, spirits, lovers and sorcerers, and hardly fits neatly in one summary. Helen Mirren stars as the sorceress, Prospera, a noblewoman cheated out of her place of royalty by a ruthless brother before being exiled with her daughter to a deserted island. There, Prospera perfects her magical arts and potions while she waits for the day when she will get revenge on her brother. That day comes when her brother accompanies the king, his brother, his son and an old advisor set sail past Prospera’s island. She uses her command of wind and water to shipwreck the men on the island and, along with the spirits and ghouls in her command, leads the men into treachery and madness while the king’s son meets and falls in love with her daughter. On another side of the island, the king’s jester and a drunkard meet up with the only native inhabitant of the island and plot to overthrow Prospera’s rule. While all stories seem to be colliding towards a climax of revenge fulfilled, a surprise remains: “the rarer action is virtue, not vengeance.”
The Tempest’s message is that reconciliation is better than revenge, and in fact, the posture of vengeance can poison the soul. While this message, and perhaps many others buried within the complex threads of storyline, is a positive one, the world of the story is extremely dark. The film does not portray light-hearted “magic,” but the sorcery of a wizard bent on revenge. The redeeming factor is that Prospera realizes, eventually, that her magical powers have destroyed her spirit. Although the storytelling is impeccable — dramatic, tense, engaging — it is too dark for Dove to approve, due to the sex, violence, nudity and “other” categories, all of which hit a three rating or above in our content chart.