William Shakespeare's immortal The Tempest's surprisingly successful transition to outer space in FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) may have encouraged director Jack Bender and screenwriter James Henerson to try restaging it in 19th-century America. Ingeniously retooling the story to unfold against the backdrop of the Civil War, Henerson uses the play as sieve through which to strain musings about war, peace and the pitfalls of parental love. Grief-stricken in the aftermath of his wife's death, plantation master Gideon Prosper (Peter Fonda), known for his compassion, ignores the impending war between the States and distracts himself by studying sorcery under the tutelage of a slave, Azalea (Donzaleigh Abernathy). Gideon is caught entirely off guard when his amoral brother, Anthony (John Glover), wrests away control of the plantation, murders Azalea and guns down her runaway son, Ariel (Harold Perrineau Jr.) then tries to lynch Gideon, his own flesh and blood. Gideon flees with his young daughter, Miranda (Rachel Crouch), and nurses Ariel back to health before embracing exile on a bayou island. Twelve years later, Union soldiers encroach on Gideon's enclave as they march South, unaware that they're headed straight into an an ambush arranged by Confederate-spy Anthony. Gideon must cope with Miranda's attraction to the Yankee soldier she rescues and find a way to warn General Grant's troops about the trap that's been set for them. Anthony, true to his treacherous nature, is more than willing to murder Gideon if that's what it takes for his plan to succeed. The basic structure of Shakespeare's metaphysical romance serves this anti-war movie well. Without betraying the spirit of the piece, one of the Bard's later efforts, Henerson's cleverly designed script addresses all the major issues of the play and never lets the relationships get lost in the process. Most touchingly, it remains the saga of an overly protective father who won't accept the inevitability of his child's maturity. Elevated by ravishing production values and superior visual effects, the film manages to rise above the anti-climactic nature of the ultimate battle skirmishes.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: William Shakespeare's immortal The Tempest's surprisingly successful transition to outer space in FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) may have encouraged director Jack Bender and screenwriter James Henerson to try restaging it in 19th-century America. Ingeniously reto… (more)