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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film was good. But.....
Good points first: It was almost completely faithful to the book until halfway through. Great acting from all involved. Music, costumes and scenery were all great.
Bad points: It strays from the book so much the further into the film you get. Most of the time, it's to make the story more dramatic and 'Hollywood'. For example: Justine is trialled in the book but hanged instantly in the film. Also, Victor meets the creature on a glacier whilst on holiday with his family in the book, whereas in the film the monster purposely comes to find him. Victor does not end up creating the second monster in the book, but in the film there is an awful sequence in which he reanimates Elizabeth, who was violently murdered. She then sets herself on her fire and runs through the house, setting it on fire and jumps from a large height. Many other changes were made, however some were simply to cut time (as movies do).
One major thing is that in the book, Frankenstein is a flawed man (a quality of a Greek Tragedy). This leads to his downfall, and nobody can deny it. However, in the film Ken Branagh obviously could not stand to play a bad character (think of what it would do to his image!), so any flaw of Victor mentioned is transferred to the creature, portraying him as the morally evil one. This completely rules out one of the key points in the book - the nature/nurture argument. If you raise your children properly, they will turn out fine. If you leave them to nature, anything could happen. Victor did not care for the creature, so eventually, after A SERIES OF TERRIBLE EVENTS (not caused by the creature), he has no choice but to turn bad. However, the film shows him as the bad guy (ok, when the monster is with the cottagers he's trying to be kind, but when he tells his tale to Victor, he is portrayed as completely evil - in the book, he's trying to make amends).
So there we go. If you have no intention of reading the book then watch this film. If you like extravagant scenes with explosions and violent deaths, watch this. However, if you love the wonderfully intelligent novel by Mary Shelley, you may want to give this one a miss (at least after watching half of it). I guess we're still waiting for a faithful film...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Branagh's Frankenstein, for all of its flaws and imperfections, is undeniably interesting. Given Branagh's history and Shakespearian background, it is surprising that his adaptation of Mary Shelley's pioneering sci fi horror is orchestrated the way it has been. Infamous for his incredibly accurate and rear-numbingly long interpretation of "Hamlet," Kenneth Branagh isn't a name usually associated with making changes and taking dramatic liberties with film adaptations of classic works. In "Frankenstein," this is exactly what he has done. Some of the changes are indeed welcome. Victor Frankenstein's obsession with his "project" is well played out by Branagh, and the addition of a strain on his relationship with Elizabeth is a dramatic necessity. Most of Shelley's formal, almost poetic dialogue has been discarded in favour of a more realistic sounding script, unfortunately likely to cater for the less literature - orientated of audiences. Nevertheless, this works well and compliments the late eighteenth century set piece to a high degree. It makes the film more believable and the characters more susceptible to empathy whereas a direct script may not have worked in a film for mainstream audiences. Whilst these and other changes are minor and do not harm the adaptation with artistic license, there are too many key omissions and additions that do just that. In the sequence wherein Robert De Niro's "Creature" begins learning human abilities such as reading, communication and emotion, the ever so relevant works of literature which he reads in the novel are absent. In Shelley's text, the Creature reads "Paradise Lost," a novel telling the story of Adam and Eve's struggle upon leaving Eden into the imperfect real world. The parallels between Adam from "Paradise Lost" and "Frankenstein's" Creature are many. Both have been forced into the world by a creator who has turned his back on them, Frankenstein in the eponymous novel, and God in "Paradise Lost". Both must learn to adapt to this new world whilst struggling to come to terms with their harsh dismissal from that of their birth givers. While not essential to the plot, a nod to that work of literature would have been welcome. Also missing, and far more damaging to Branagh's doomed movie, is the tremendous sense of loss and loneliness that drives the novel. In Shelley's text, Victor often reflects on the passing of a better life and the doom and gloom that his failed experiment has brought him. He loses all his cherished loved ones in such a short time and it completely destroys his spirits. Branagh made a fatal error in omitting this, one which renders the character of Victor as less amiable than he could have been and ultimately severs the emotion this film creates. Whilst (despite the dismissal of certain themes and sub plots) "Frankenstein" is somewhat a faithful adaptation, the "Wedding Night" sequence takes huge liberties and is completely unnecessary. Victor barely mourns his wife's death (which, prior to the reanimation, is extremely faithful to the book) before chopping her to pieces in order to bring her to life. This scene, completely absent from Shelley's novel, is clearly done for no other reason than to shock audiences. The idea that Victor would spend his life married to a living corpse is repulsive. Shelley's Victor would not consider this, seeing as he regards his creation as a "Demon." It is an utterly ridiculous ending, although it does highlight the issue of who the real evil is. Surely Victor cannot assume his creation is evil if he is willing to marry a similar creation. Ridiculous ending aside, the film could have been saved by strong performances from its lead players. Unfortunately, excluding Branagh, these are not present. Tom Hulce is almost emotionless and undesirable as Henry Clerval, who Shelley intended as an optimistic and joy bringing presence whose death (again completely left out in this interpretation) utterly cripples Victor emotionally. Helena Bonham Carter's Elizabeth is also unconvincing, failing to strike empathy and sympathy into audiences, whilst De Niro's curiously Italian - American Creature is underwhelming and gives the impression that De Niro is having as much fun playing the creature as we are watching him. Overall, "Frankenstein's" under-performing leads, glaring omissions and unnecessary additions (not to mention atrocious lighting and a ridiculously out of place soundtrack) make this film almost impossible to enjoy or indeed take seriously. Unfortunately, seriousness is exactly what makes the Novel so impacting.
I went into this with very few expectations, simply because I didn't
know what to expect. I must say it turned out to be a decent flick, but
rather hit-and-miss in places.
The plot is a classic one, and it is handled very well here. The message is made quite obvious, and while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, I do wish that they would have been more subtle about it. It also suffers from some very bad writing, with many very poor lines. Still, it's an interesting account of the story.
The actors are, for the most part, very good. Branagh does a great job on both sides of the camera, but he really shines here as an actor. He does a fantastic job as Victor. As for DeNiro, I'm somewhat torn. He gave a great performance as the Creature, however I'm not sure that I liked how the character was portrayed. He was a very uneven character, who seemed to change his entire mindset on the drop of a dime. Perhaps this was intentional, but if so it wasn't handled very well.
One thing that I rarely comment on about of movie is the score, though I feel the need to mention it here. A good, though generic, score, I was very annoyed at how intrusive it could be. It seemed very out of place most of the time.
Finally, the pacing was very uneven. It moved along at a good clip most of the time, but was almost unbearably slow in the middle.
Despite it's flaws, this is a pretty good film. I enjoyed it, and it's recommended by me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, I know the movie is almost 12 years old but I've just watched it
for the first time and it is quite simply so bad that it prompted me to
register just to comment.
I gave this movie a 3/10 and that was only for the scenery. The casting and characterisation bothered me from from the opening scenes in the Arctic. I can't help wondering if those involved with the screenplay and casting choices actually read Shelley's Frankenstein or simply read an abridged comic book version.
I understand taking certain "artistic licenses" when adapting a novel to movie form, especially one written in the 1800's but... in my opinion, this movie went too far.
Minor spoilers, only in the first quarter of the movie should serve to illustrate my point: The movie opens in the Artic in 1794. It then flashes back (yes, this is true to the book, besides the names and locations one of the only things that is) to 1793 when Victor leaves for University. This leads the viewer to believe that only the passage of one year was involved between leaving for university, creating the creature and chasing him to the Arctic. For any who have read the book, this is glaringly inaccurate.
The second liberty that made me cringe was Henry Clerval. I think Tom Hulce was one of the few good casting choices in the movie but they played too fast and loose with the characters background. In the novel, Henry was Victor's friend in Geneva. Henry wanted to go to university with Victor but Henry's father wanted his son to learn business, not the sciences. Henry does not arrive in Ingolstadt until AFTER Victor gives life to the creature. In the movie, Henry is a student of science who meets Victor for the first time at university.
I could go on but I this post would become far too long. I will agree with a prior review I read here that lead to my making this post, the scenery is beautiful but there was no "complete faithfulness to the story".
This movie captures the essence of Mary Shelley's book but takes a few liberties with her story. Watch this film without commercials and editing for TV to get the full effect of the drama and tension. The few gory scenes could have been omitted and the film not affected. Definitely not a movie for the squeamish. I wish the screenplay writer would have explored Victor Frankenstein's internal conflicts further. He claims he has made a horrible mistake--whether it is due to what he has discovered, or what he has created, is somewhat vague, but seems to be both. He reacts to the situation by ignoring it, and faces it only when forced to. The movie vilified the monster, whereas the book, portrayed the monster with more sympathy; more as an innocent child caught up Victor's distraught thoughts and emotions.
Related to the book alright, but with a twist on the bride scene. The only two lines that are an homage to the original are "Don't Touch tat." And "It's Alive!" Kenneth Braggan plays the creator, and Robert DeNiro as the creation. Chilling, and thrilling. Better than the 1931 movie. There's one scene where Kenneth Braggan is looking muscular in creating the creation. That scene got spoofed in a DEXTER'S LABRATORY episode called "Martial Kombat". If you enjoyed that film why not watch BRAUM STROKER'S DRACULA.
De Niro is great as the monster, Branagh excellent as the obsessed doctor, Helena Bonham Carter and John Cleese all add to the enjoyment with superb performances. The effects are awesome and all of this with a magnificent story brilliantly adapted for the screen make it a splendid spectacle. We really enjoyed it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS**
I've never been able to understand why people resent Kenneth Branagh so much. To my mind, he's a fine actor, a very good director, and his failures in each area are more than made up for by his ambition--when he screws up it's because he's tried for something magnificent that proves to be just out of his reach. As opposed to most people, who can screw up on things that aren't worth achieving in the first place. But there seem to be a lot of people that just hate Branagh--that go out of their way to be annoyed by him. I just don't get it. This film was produced by Francis Coppola and American Zoetrope, and his Dracula cohort James V. Hart, and it shares that movie's aim of trying to make a film true to the literary spirit and themes of the original novel. That said, in feel and approach it's very much Kenneth Branagh's movie. In place of the baroque immersion in setting and atmosphere that Coppola usually brings to a project (particularly Dracula), we get the fantastic energy that Branagh pours into his work. It really is the first Frankenstein movie to capture the Romantic spirit of Shelley's book. The frequent appearance of fire (especially the scene of the monster holding aloft the torch at the end) remind one of the book's subitle: The Modern Prometheus. And Branagh's portrayal of Victor embodies all the promise and hubris of Shelley's protagonist. And at the same time, the film manages to be a really good Gothic horror flick, too. The lab setup is wonderfully imagined--everything one could want from a mad scientist's lab circa 1794--and some of the scenes are among the weirdest and most horrifying ever filmed. Horrifying in the old-school sense, the feeling that you're watching Something That Should Not Be. I'm thinking of Victor's weird dance in the amniotic fluid with the newly reanimated monster, still unable to stand. It goes on forever, while the viewer becomes more and more aghast at what is being shown. Then there's the climax, where he reanimates his bride, and the viewer realizes he's truly gone mad. The movie manages that rare trick of being two things at once: an intellectually satisfying literary movie and a ripping good adventure Performances: Branagh's great. Helena Bonham-Carter is also superb--her post-reanimation scene alone is worth the price of admission. She must have had a lot of fun doing that. Tom Hulce is fantastic as usual in a bit part. And John Cleese is astoundingly good in his cameo. The only real problem with this movie is Robert DeNiro. Physically, he's perfect for the role--a more monstery-looking Frankenstein's monster you couldn't ask for. But once he learns to speak, it's Brooklyn, and it just about ruins the movie. For this film to work the monster has to be alternately horrifying and poetic--you have to believe that under all those scars and stitches is a sensitive, wounded soul. But every time DeNiro speaks it sounds like he's saying "You lookin' at me?!" even if he isn't. The accent ruins it. The monster's utterances are essential to the book, but I think it would have been preferable in the movie to have him remain mute, rather than let DeNiro speak. If you can get around that, though, it's a fine movie. 7/10
The last filmed version of Frankenstein to date was Kenneth Branagh's 1994 film, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, starring Robert De Niro. The aim of this film was to stick as closely as possible to the literary source. In the end, director Branagh, who also played Victor Frankenstein, and writers, Steph Lady and Frank Darabont, still changed some parts of the plot, but nevertheless finally came up with a film that was at least made in the spirit of Mary Shelley. The film begins on the North Pole, where Walton's ship hits an iceberg. The crew then picks up a man traveling the icy region, who reveals his name as Victor Frankenstein. In contrast to most other films, Branagh kept the frame with Walton, to whom the story now is narrated by Frankenstein. The film then shifts to Geneva and presents us with Victor Frankenstein's childhood and adolescence. Here the film is different from the novel: Victor's mother dies giving birth to William, his experiments with lightning are not in the novel, and Victor does not make the acquaintance of Henry Clerval before he enters the University in Ingolstadt. In Ingolstadt he meets Professor Waldmann. He once performed experiments similar to those of Frankenstein, but gave them up "because they resulted in abomination.' When Waldmann is killed in a hospital, Victor takes the Professor's records in order to continue his works. He starts to assemble his creature from the body of Waldmann's murderer, Waldmann's brain and the limbs of dead people. Waldmann's death and his involvement in experiments, dealing with the creation of life, were added by screenwriters Lady and Darabont. In the novel Waldmann is simply a Professor of chemistry who encourages the ambitious Frankenstein. Branagh and the screenwriters also invented a method to show how Victor gives life to his creature. Branagh said that the vision he had had in mind for the creation scene is `of a child being born to parents who then walk out of the delivery room, leaving the child for dead, covered in this bloodstained fluid'. In a giant laboratory in the attic of his house, Frankenstein puts the creature into an aquarium filled with amniotic fluid and animates it with electricity produced by eels. When the creature finally has come to life we see Victor struggling with a naked, `goo-covered' man, who appears clumsy and can barely walk. Again and again the man falls down until Victor, taken by horror, speaks, "What have I done?" Believing the creature dead he goes to sleep. The following experiences of the Monster are massively shortened in comparison to the novel. We only see the Monster being beaten by the townspeople once. He then flees into the woods, where he hides in the pigsty of a poor family. He secretly supports the family by bringing in potatoes from their fields and learns how to read by watching the mother teaching her daughter. Here the film completely drops the episode with the Turkish girl, Safie, and there are also no books by Plutarch, Milton and Goethe. Instead the film introduces a brutal landlord whom the Monster kills when he rescues the blind grandfather. Branagh also drops the Monster's narrative. Instead the film's plot develops chronologically, except for the beginning, shifting between the Monster and Frankenstein. The film deviates from the original plot of the novel a couple of more times throughout the film, but is very much faithful, much more faithful than previous adaptations. Branagh's faithfulness to the literary original particularly shows in his presentation of the Monster. Like no film before, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein presents the Monster as the victim of its circumstances, as a pitiful creature, who is driven to evil by society and its maker. By casting Robert de Niro, an actor of average height, as the Monster and not making him an 8-foot tall giant, the Monster becomes more human. Despite the changes in the plot it can surely be said that of all film versions, Kenneth Branagh's movie comes closest to Mary Shelley's novel. The movie preserves the central ideas of the novel, straightens the plot, and removes implausible elements, for which the novel has often been criticized.
I like this film very much. It kept my interest all the way through. I
into a movie house with an open mind and just let the screen take me
wherever it's going. This movie took me to some of the most picturesque
places I've ever been.
The landscape and interior scenes are photographed beautifuly. The story is told with the warmth and care it deserves.
Mr.'s Cleese, Branagh, Hulce and De Niro all give powerful performences with an extra bit of Umph from Mr. Quinn.
The ladies too are exceptional in their respective roles.
I don't think it was better than "Bram Stoker's Dracula" but, I think it was right up there with it. These are two great and entertaining films to watch back to back. Neither of them will ever be done any better. And if it was at all possible to do, then they would have to put Mr.'s De Niro and Oldman in the same movie. Now that would be a horror movie!!! Ciao xoxox
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