Shakespeare’s final play has inspired several films, including the science-fiction Forbidden Planet, Paul Mazursky’s contemporary Tempest, and versions by Peter Greenaway ( Prospero’s Books) and Derek Jarman. Now comes a new version from Amercian director Julie Taymor, known for her visually supercharged productions The Lion Kingon stage and, on film, Titus Andronicusand the Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe.

You could be forgiven for anticipating a visually rich experience. After all this is a play set on an exotic island filled with strangeness and magic. It’s disappointing then to see how bleak Taymor’s vision so often looks, and feels. Breaking cleanly away from her trademark extravagance, Taymor conjures up an island that’s nothing but craggy rocks and wind-swept desert.

Balancing up the ledger are some imaginative visual effects and bold casting decisions. The protagonist becomes Prospera, played splendidly by Helen Mirren. Russell Brand makes a lively Trinculo in the comic sub-plot, and the casting of African-born Djimon Hounsou as Caliban...