Let me say right off: I am a total Bardolator. I teach Shakespeare, I am obsessed with Shakespeare, I have read and seen all the plays, and my love affair with the Bard began with seeing a live performance of The Tempest in 1975. It was pure magic. I also love movies, and I believe that in the 21st century, filmed versions of Shakespeare's plays are probably the best way to reach the widest audience. The sneers and sniffs of snobs aside, I am convinved that if Will were alive today, he'd be writing movie screenplays (or even television), NOT stage plays, which today tend to be aimed at a narrow, elite, theatre-going audience.
As a literature professor who has been teaching The Tempest for a decade now, I have always been singularly bemused by the lack of a filmed version that really captures the magical spirit of the play. The old TV Richard Burton show is well-acted but silly, the BBC version has great actors but terrible, flat production values, Prospero's Books is brilliant but incomprehensible to all but those who know the play intimately, Derek Jarman's version is terribly dated and, despite being a good "film," just doesn't work as The Tempest, in my opinion. The other, "scholastic" releases are plagued by poor production and/or undistinguished acting. And I won't even bother with "adaptations" of the plot, such as Forbidden Planet or Cassavettes's Tempest.
Until this version, the only truly excellent version of The Tempest was the HBO animated one, but at 25 minutes, not much of Shakespeare's story remained intact.
This past spring I had the great pleasure of seeing Julie Taymor's The Tempest in London. It was absolutely amazing. The magic was there! The acting, for the most part, was brilliant. The script contained enough of the actual play's language that the minor tweakings to make it easier for contemporary audiences did not bother me a bit. The visuals were absolutely stunning. The movie was a joy from start to finish. I can't wait to see it again--repeatedly--to savor all the special moments over and again. My only regret is that my students will be unable to see it this year due to the late release date.
If you love Shakespeare, and if you enjoy movie adaptations of the plays, DO NOT MISS THIS ONE!