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The Tempest (1998 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Tempest
The Tempest (1998 film).jpg
Based onThe Tempest
by William Shakespeare
Directed byJack Bender
StarringPeter Fonda
Music byTerence Blanchard
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producersJack Bender
Bonnie Raskin
ProducerJames Bigwood
CinematographySteve Shaw
EditorStephen Lovejoy
Running time85 minutes
Production companiesBonnie Raskin Productions
NBC Studios
Original release
  • December 13, 1998 (1998-12-13) (United States)

The Tempest is a 1998 American drama television film directed by Jack Bender. It is a modernized adaptation of the William Shakespeare play The Tempest set in Mississippi during the Civil War starring Peter Fonda as Gideon Prosper, a character based on Shakespeare's Prospero.


Gideon Prosper is a kindly Southern slave-owner raising his darling daughter himself after being widowed four years prior by an unnamed fever which killed his wife. When he starts asking himself certain questions, he is taken in and mentored by his favorite and wisest slave, a Mambo priestess named Asaleigh, who teaches him real magic. Fascinated by what he is learning from her, he leaves the running of his plantation to his younger brother, Anthony. However, Anthony soon develops a taste for power, and a desire to possess what Gideon has, and begins stealing from both the butcher and the slaves. Gideon's bookkeeper, William Gonzo, alerts him to Anthony's behavior during a party (which includes threatening William with his job if he does not obey Anthony), and Gideon informs his younger brother he is going to reestablish active control of the plantation.

During the night, Anthony secretly sets loose Asaleigh's son, Ariel, whom he had beaten earlier for complaining about the food the slaves have been given for the past months. He also shoots Ariel and leaves him for dead in the swamp, in order to frame Gideon for aiding a runaway slave. Anthony and the sheriff abduct Gideon, but just as they are about to hang him, Asaleigh uses her magic to rescue Gideon and trick them into believing he was killed by a lightning strike. William, meanwhile, brings Miranda safely to him, along with much-needed supplies and magic books. Aware of what Asaleigh has done for him, Gideon takes Miranda to find Ariel and save him. But he is helpless to save Asaleigh, who is murdered by Anthony as soon as he returns to the plantation.

Surviving in the Mississippi bayou for 12 years, Prosper raises Miranda to the age of 16, and teaches Ariel how to read, write, count, figure, and even offers to teach him Asaleigh's magic (which Ariel refuses, having lost faith in it because it did not save his mother from being killed). One day, while Ariel is out flying as a crow, he spots the Union army nearby, and learns that four months prior, the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, and begins asking Prosper for his freedom so he can fight for the Union. Gideon does not outright refuse, because he cares for Ariel like a son, but he also does not say yes, either (ironically for the same reason). He simply states that he needs him, at leaves it at that. Ariel also points out that Miranda is growing up, and longing to see and learn about the world, but Prosper curtly replies he envies her innocence and ignorance.

While the Union army is figuring out how to cross the river so they can take Vicksburg, Anthony arrives at the camp to offer his services—-for a price. He advises them of a place to cross, and he is sent with Captain Frederic Allen to verify its safety. Ambushed en route, Anthony is revealed to be a spy, planning to deliver the Union army into a trap. Having been alerted by Ariel to Anthony's presence, Prosper promises Ariel his freedom to fight for the Union if he helps him regain what Anthony has stolen. He then conjures a storm to strand Anthony and Willie in the swamp, and sends a magically-disguised Ariel to bring them to him.

Meanwhile, Miranda checks on the local Cajun, Gator Man (an unwilling servant to Prosper), whom she has befriended over the years, to see how he fared through the storm. But he misinterprets her affection for love, and being ruled by his instincts, he tries to rape her. As a result, he is banished by Prosper. Prosper helps Miranda understand Gator Man's behavior, and also tells her of their life before. At this same time, Fredric washes up on their island, and while Miranda nurses him back to health, they fall in love.

Meanwhile, as Anthony and Willie are following Ariel, they stumble across Gator Man's hovel. They pay him for food and shelter, and Gator Man reveals to them Prosper, Miranda and Ariel are all alive. It is also revealed that when Prosper arrived, he stole Gator Man's bayou from him. Anthony promises that if Gator Man leads him to Prosper and guides him out of the swamp, he will kill Prosper for him, and also let him have Miranda.

When Ariel learns the Union army is trying to cross the river by night, he asks Prosper for the ability to conjure a fog bank to shield them from the Confederate artillery. Prosper doubts Ariel will return if he does so, but Ariel gives his word he will, so Prosper teaches him the spell. While Ariel is off conjuring, Miranda and Frederic secretly leave as well, so Prosper is alone on his island when his is ambushed by Anthony and shot through the chest.

Willie, still loyal and devoted to Prosper, lies to Anthony about Prosper being dead. Gator Man demands that Anthony help him find Miranda, but Anthony manages to bribe him to continue guiding them out of the bayou. Ariel, meanwhile, having heard the shot, returns to find Prosper mortally wounded. Unable to use the magic himself, he begs the spirits for help to heal Prosper, and his mother's spirit answers his prayer.

While Ariel is off searching for Miranda, she also comes to Prosper's aid, who has lost his magic because his fear has made him lose his faith. Together, they scare off Gator Man, and also inflict Anthony with temporary madness. In his madness, he raves about how Gideon should have strangled him in his cradle, revealing he regrets his actions—-but he is unable to act any other way.

Having been captured by Anthony, Miranda and Ariel are taken as hostages. Frederic, meanwhile, having been left behind, is found and rescued by Prosper. Letting go of his fear, Prosper is able to use his magic again, and helps Ariel and Miranda escape. And after having a heartfelt talk with each of them, Prosper agrees to help the Union.

While Anthony and Willie pole up the Mississippi to reach the Confederates, Ariel guides the Union to the best place to cross and set up an ambush. Prosper, meanwhile, uses a press-ganged Gator Man to lull the Confederates into a false sense of security by confronting a phantom army. So when they face the real army, they think it is just another of Prosper's tricks—-until it is too late. At this same time, Anthony arrives with Willie posing as a prisoner, only to be met by Prosper and Ariel with General Grant.

With Willie, Gator Man and Anthony now prisoners, Prosper is asked by Grant what do with them. Willie is taken back with open arms, which he gratefully and happily reciprocates. Prosper considers killing Anthony for a moment, but then spares him. And this clearly has an effect on Anthony, because even as he calls Prosper a fool, he looks at him with tear-filled eyes. But because he has acted as a spy, he is still taken away for a military trial (with the outcome most likely that he will be hanged), and there is nothing Prosper can do for him. But something can still be done for Gator Man, which Ariel provides with the pretense of needing someone to help them pack. Recognizing they have saved his life, Gator Man helps without complaint. And recognizing the wrong he did to him 12 years ago, as well as his courage, Prosper returns the bayou to Gator Man, and even gives him his house to live in as his own. As Gator Man explores his new home, Frederic starts asking Prosper for Miranda's hand in marriage, and Prosper insists on it before the question can be finished. He also gives Ariel his freedom to fight for the Union, informing him he can no longer fly like a bird now because of it. With tear-filled eyes, Ariel then asks why he now feels like can soar like an eagle. They hug goodbye, and Prosper drops his magic ring into the pond, and scatters his magic powder, no longer having need of them.



Filming took place at Cypress Gardens, and other locations in, and around, Charleston, South Carolina.[1]


The film was broadcast on NBC at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, December 13, 1998.[2]


In his 2001 book Shakespeare in the Movies: From the Silent Era to Today, author Douglas Brode wrote that "Jack Bender's film emerged as yet another offbeat variation on Will's theme, but with the Bard's immortal poetry entirely excised."[3]

In a negative review for the Los Angeles Times, reviewer Daryl H. Miller wrote, "A miscalculation of epic proportions, this revision of one of the Bard’s masterworks is at times laugh-out-loud awful, at times offensive."[4]

In a negative review for People, reviewer Terry Kelleher wrote, "The low-key style that served Fonda so well in his Oscar-nominated Ulee’s Gold role doesn’t work for Prosper/Prospero, who needs a charisma that the actor can’t provide. The script gives Fonda two lines of actual Shakespeare at the end, and we admit he seems less than comfortable with the language."[2]

In a review for Variety, reviewer Laura Fries wrote, "What makes this production universally appealing is that it lacks the pretenses that usually come with a literary-based telepic. Writer James Henerson plays on such ’90s issues as lost faith, selfishness, vengeance and loyalty to propel this Civil War-era saga."[5]

See also


  1. ^ "The Tempest > A Conversation With Bonnie Raskin | Katherine Heigl Official Website".
  2. ^ a b "Picks and Pans Review: The Tempest".
  3. ^ Brode, Douglas (February 23, 2000). Shakespeare in the Movies: From the Silent Era to Shakespeare in Love. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195139587 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' Goes South". Los Angeles Times. December 12, 1998.
  5. ^ Fries, Laura (December 11, 1998). "The Tempest".

External links

This page was last edited on 6 July 2021, at 23:17
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