Friday, December 10, 2010

A New Genre: The Prospective Movie Review

Maybe it's wildly unfair of me, but as soon as I saw the commercial tonight for director Julie Taymor's forthcoming version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", I thought, "it'll be a dud". The commercial showed Prospero having been changed from a male to a female; and while, strictly speaking, that in itself isn't enough to torpedo a movie, I have a sinking feeling about it all the same. The father-daughter dynamic - obviously heavily dependent on the sex of each character - is crucial to the story; change dad to a mum, and it's almost a given that Shakespeare's enchanting and powerful tapestry begins to unravel. Certainly, Hollywood's history of destroying classic tales by trying to "update" essentially unimprovable and timeless story lines and characters only inflamed my sense of foreboding; and when I later caught Taymor's interview with Stephen Colbert, it only aligned with what I'd thought two seconds after I saw the commercial.

Though few people in Hollywood seem to grasp it, structurally changing classics in order to make them "relevant" is generally a VBI (very bad idea); after all, the reason why any story is a "classic" is because it is inherently immune to becoming irrelevant. A classic can, I suppose, be neglected by people who find things like Youtube clips of gerbils eating their own young or people falling off of ladders more entertaining, but a classic, by definition, doesn't become irrelevant. In fact, the only time classics smack of irrelevance is when the artistically mediocre, desperate to think of themselves as contemporary colleagues and peers of the original genius creators, torment us with their dull-witted versions of them. So bottom line is, I'm giving this new version of "The Tempest" a thumbs down. I hope, when I see it, I find myself to be very wrong, because it's been my favourite Shakespearean play since I first read it in Dr. McNamara's political theory class seventeen years ago (that went fast!).

On the other hand, a forthcoming remake of the John Wayne classic True Grit, directed by the Coen Brothers and starring Matt Damon, will no doubt be terrific. The Coen Brothers of course are a sure bet, so I'm not saying anything that most people don't already know. I mean...good script, good actors, and good director, means good movie.

So there are my two prospective movie reviews: The Tempest is dudsville, True Grit is great.