on May 7, 2004
ok, im a student in high school, and i can tell the differences in the book and the movie easliy. the movie is nothing like the book, in the first 5 mintutes there are almost 10 thing different from the book, 1. it looks like the monster is chasing victor, 2. the monster doesn't attack the dogs, 3. they don't see the monster off in the distance sledding away 4. no letters to robert walton's sister, 5. Robert walton seems power hungry, 6. the threat of mutiny doesn't happen until the end of the book,
7. victor never brings elizabeth back to life
8. the monster does not kill victors dad
9. the monster all together, hes 8 foot 3, long black hair, yellow skin, black lips, hes not supposed to be white, w/ pink lips and bald, if Mary Shelley was here today i don't think she'd be proud of this movie, its nothing like her book
i have not completly seen all of this movie, but i don't tihnk it should be called Mary Shelley's version, b/c of the obvious differences in which i stated above.
on February 3, 2004
This is a difficult one to assess. Obviously Kenneth Branagh's production of MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN is a sumptuous piece to watch but, unlike Shelley's literary Victor Frankenstein, Branagh makes poor use of the "raw materials" that he has at his disposal for this one. What a wasted cast including Aidan Quinn (who has barely a cameo), Tom Hulce (I think that I might have rather had Hulce as Dr. Frankenstein), Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm (another wasted cameo), John Cleese (what was it with putting a mouthful of oversized false teeth in Cleese's head?) and Robert De Niro. But then Branagh always suffers from an overwhelming desire to hog the spotlight.
Branagh's portrayal of Victor Frankenstein goes way too far. Yes, he's supposed to be mad but I found him actually exaggerating the role much as Gene Wilder did intentionally in the wonderful parody YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Branagh seems unable to divorce himself from the stage where overacting is not only expected but also necessary.
De Niro comes close but is still far too repulsive in the role. Shelley's monster is far more endearing and approachable. But then De Niro does an apparently masterful job of portraying Branagh's view of things.
What he loses by misusing his cast he makes up for in the area of cinematography and special effects. The shock value of this film alone makes it worth watching. But do read Shelley's masterpiece first. You can then recognize what has been salvaged and what was unfortunately left behind. Branagh actually comes close with a few scenes but wanders aimlessly with most of them.
An admittedly generous three stars for the cinematography, scenery and for Tom Hulce's tidy performance.
on May 18, 2003
Obviously designed to cash in on the popularity of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Frankenstein is an essay in why leading actors shouldn't try to artifically create a life for themselves as a director. Frankenstein could have been a great film - it's a fantastic story as raw material, the cast is outstanding, the sets and make-up are great and Branagh clearly had a bottomless budget - but everything tries so self consciously to be stylish that the whole artifice collapses entirely under its own weight.
The film belts along as if it is on a caffeine rush - the camera circles, pans, swoops and ascends over the action like an angel, but never once stands still - rendering the already grand gestures of the cast absurd - Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter overact like there's no tomorrow - which has the effect of converting a gothic horror into a pantomime farce.
The pity about all this is that this film does capture the point of Shelley's book in a way none other has: Robert De Niro plays the nameless monster very sympathetically and Branagh rightly treats him as the victim in all this. But the film - with its silly embellishments on the Frankenstein novel - undermines sophisticated statement.
Worth a look, but extraordinarily disappointing.
on December 14, 2002
This was a good movie with a good point about the way society doesn't always accept people who are different. But, I was really disappointed. When I read that Robert De Niro was in this movie playing Frankenstein's monster, and that it was a horror movie, I was expecting an entertaining, wild, bloody, eerie, and terrifying horror about a mad monster. But, instead, it was a very sad film. I almost wanted to cry. Just thinking about the scene in which Frankenstein's monster kills a good-hearted woman makes me sad. And, what's so sad is that the monster wasn't truly a monster at heart. He had love inside him, but nobody understood him, so he reacted with violence. The sadness of the film makes it less enjoyable to watch. Overall, it is a good movie though. But, don't watch this film if you are prone to weeping about sad scenes in movies. And, I wouldn't recommend watching this movie if you're looking for a scary movie, because it's not all that scary. If you like science, and you enjoy creating strange experiments, and science fiction, and watching tragedies befall upon good people, I recommend this movie.
on October 17, 2002
That meaning something is missing from both the film and the DVD. I agree with various reviewers that this should be more entitled "Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein", because that is essentially what it is. It's more a rehash of the British Horrors of the 60s, and hardly a faithful rendition of the novel. Even Bride of Frankenstein was more faithful than this.
The story begins very well with the voyage of the Sea Captain encountering the emaciated Dr. F, a footnote not many are familiar with. The story begins from Victor's childhood, and the tragedy of his Mother's death turns his quest into an obsession. The build-up towards the Creature's birthing sequence is very well staged. I do like DeNiro's develop of the Creature. First as a mentally underdeveloped brute, then slowly becoming educated through sight, touch, sense, smell, and taste. Heck, anybody who maintains a fairly decent complexion through a balanced diet of raw potatoes should catch on quickly. After the inevitable scene where the Creature is banished from humankind and seeks revenge is where the entire story begins to spin madly out of control.
Too many key scenes in the film that DO take place in the novel all occur out of sequence. The Monster's encounter with Victor in the snow mountains, the murder of William, and the hanging of Justine. In the novel, Justine is condemned to the gallows, and Victor seeking solitude has a not so fortuitous encounter with his creation. There the Creature tells his story beginning with his birth. It's the same thing for Elizabeth's death scene. He was supposed to strangle her - not play Mortal Kombat by plucking her heart out. Following that where Victor revives an amalgamated Elizabeth/Justine is too campy. It spoofs not only BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, but all the others; Andy Warhol's 1974 FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, even FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND. I do like that Helena Bonham Carter, like Catherine Rabett before her makes a sexy Elizabeth. John Cleese, Tom Hulce, Aidan Quinn, and Ian Holm are also always joys to see onscreen.
I'll say Kenneth Branagh and Robert DeNiro had a good time making this movie. I like the scene where he tries about thirteen times to help him stand over a layer of amniotic fluid. Patrick Doyle's score and Roger Pratt's camerawork also don't help the production much, making the film even more overwhelming. So do I recommend it? I'm ashamed to say it, but yes. The trouble is I still have YET to see a movie version of the novel that is entirely faithful. The film has it's strengths and weaknesses, and is still an enjoyable treat for those in the mood for an entirely different perception of FRANKENSTEIN than the Gothic trademark laboratory and lightning.
As far as the DVD is concerned, the picture and sound quality is outstanding. The color contrasts are treated so they are appropriately light during day, and bluish-dark during night. This is not an uncommon restoration process through silent classics. Seeing the film in widescreen also gives it a very different dimension. The VHS version looks too lacking in color and contrast. Watch it with the lights turned off, and you'll see what I mean. The extras include French and Spanish audio, and the original trailer, plus strangely enough the MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING trailer. My only disappointment with it is there is no audio commentary from Branagh and/or DeNiro. If a newer version of the DVD is released including an audio commentary I would be very interested in hearing it.
To wrap it all up, this is a good version of the FRANKENSTEIN saga, but along the way, I can never help but feel something just is not appropriately registered.
on January 23, 2001
When I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the 11th grade, I envisioned everything in the novel unfolding in my mind like a movie. I saw deeply moving characters and a moving drama that captures all the romanticism and transcendentalism that Shelley conveyed through her characters and settings, a movie that would stir up great emotion. "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," Kenneth Branagh's film treatment of the famed classic, falls just short of these qualifications. The movie, in itself, does have a good deal of the novel's plot and suspense, but in my opinion, it misses the mark in capturing all the elements of the novel, while sometimes seeming forced and aggressive in places where it is not needed.
The story, like the novel, begins with the northbound whaling vessel being tossed in the waves and finally surrounded by a frozen sea of ice. The ship's captain, Robert Walton, will stop at nothing to pursue his destination, the North Pole, in order to secure his place among the world's greatest discoverers. Putting his crew to work in freeing the ship, the group of frigid men is frightened by the howlings of something that can only be inhuman, and are soon after set upon by a man travelling the ice. In the captian's quarters, he reveals his name, Victor Frankenstein, and his story to Walton.
His story involves his pursuit of a cure for death, after the bloody death of his mother during the birth of her youngest son. His father, a doctor, is relieved to learn that Victor wishes to follow in his footsteps, but once Victor reaches college, he spends his days arguing the existence of life and death with his professor. He makes an acquaintance with a Professor Waldman, a man who once came too close to accomplishing Victor's very dream. From here, Victor goes on his gruesome quest for the facts, the equipment, and (no surprise) the right parts. He constructs a man made from men, parts gathered from different poverty-stricken areas of the town. But once he brings it to life, he realizes the importance of Waldman's oppositions, and when the creature realizes that he will never gain the acceptance and tolerance of anyone in the human race, he threatens Frankenstein with his life and the safety of those he holds dear.
It must be said of this movie that the emotion of the creature has never been better put to film. The old versions produce the nuts-and-bolts creature, which is merely meant as a simple scare, while this film chooses to go with the various descriptions of the novel in creating a person made from the body parts of others. To call him a monster is a misgiving; all he merely yearns for is the love of another, whether it be friendship or passion, in order to make himself feel the happiness and joy that he sees in the faces of those he spies upon, particularly his Master, Victor. The emotions and feelings of the creature are clearly conveyed here, his cries filling the canvas with sadness, rage, and regret throughout.
The movie is also a visually stunning work of art, like a painting that springs to life before your eyes. It clearly captures the aristocracy and the poverty of the 1700's, and takes the added advantage of contrasting the two of them whenever possible by places high class people in impoverished situations and settings (Victor's slovenly appearance during the creation of his masterpiece is a prime example). Also filmed in the high peaks of the Alps, during the winter and spring, this gives the movie a sense of scope, a sense of space that the characters get lost in.
The way in which the plot takes a more direct approach to the science involved in Victor's life is a bit of a disappointment, though. The novel is mysterious in that it never dives into the way in which the creature comes to life (one night when Victor is asleep, he awakens from a nightmare to see the creature standing before him). The movie's portrayal of the creature's "birth" is highly energetic, yet it loses that added sense of mysticism and eerieness because we actually see the process involved in bringing him to life.
There are quite a few little plot details added as well, such as Victor's acquaintance with Waldman. In the novel, he is not mentioned more than once or twice, while in the novel, he becomes more of a model for Victor's impending actions. Also, be sure to look out for a sharp change in the ending, which seems a bit of an attempt to give the story a better reason for Victor leaving after the creature to the North.
The main character who is played out with perfection is the creature, portrayed by Robert De Niro. Some were surprised by this casting choice, but it is clear that De Niro knows what he is doing. He is able to authentically act out each different emotion of the creature, one of his most notable performances being in his confrontation with Victor after many years. Kenneth Branagh chose to play the title role, vividly bringing to life the character of Victor. However, his performance does tend to seem pushed for instead of naturally acted, his dialogue sounding unnatural and forced at times. Nonetheless, he never fails to impress, and ultimately adds to the experience. Helena Bonham Carter is a hit as the strong-willed Elizabeth, who never leaves her love's side, even when she learns that he is in danger. Her acting is powerful, moving, and ranks up with every other performance she has done.
The sum it up, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is not a winner when compared to the novel's use of romantic and transcendental elements, though it does have redeeming qualities. The creature's portrayal is haunting and true, while the visuals are breathtaking and visceral. You may find yourself feeling let down by the movie, but I promise, repeated viewings do tend to add a little to the experience.
on March 22, 2000
The film has it's problems, but it is worth seeing and it is a whole lot better than Bram Stoker's Dracula. The sets are breathtaking, the costumes and special effects get an A. The acting is generally good, DeNiro is the stand-out as the creature, also look for some good, but small roles by John Cleese and Robert Hardy as professors with very different approahces. The other characters seem very overwelmed and overly emotional at times and I felt like they never spent enough buliding up these characters for us to really know them. The choppy scenes which make up the majority of the film really detracts from us getting to know the characters early on. I felt like I was being pushed on to the creation scene because they were just so anxious to get there that they rushed through a number of scenes that would have helped to better establish the emotional parts we see later. Sometimes I felt left with a hollow feeling instead of feeling pity or sympathy for the characters. Still this film has enough interesting parts and strong enough visuals to make it worth viewing and Frankenstein's first lab is possibly the best set I have ever seen in a horror film.
on December 27, 1999
There is such over-the-top relish and glee in Kenneth Branaugh's spectacular telling of the classic story that it simply cannot be dismissed --it is an interesting, entertaining and campy oddity. The ghoulish proceedings take on a Shakepearean intensity, even in the sets (think of that grand, spare staircase that swoops through the Frankenstein home) and the violent, fluid-gushing "creation" sequences. And despite everyone's overzealous performances, including Robert DeNiro as the first mobster Frankenstein, there are moments of terror and real stomach-turning, as in Elizabeth's re-awakening. It is hard to shake such bold, repulsive visions from your mind.
on April 20, 1999
So the monster really looked like Shelley envisioned, but all of the feminist critiques of society were shamefully left out. Elizabeth is suddenly a strong woman willing to leave Victor when he stalls in marrying her. The DeLancy's are not found in this movie version. And Victor and Elizabeth choose to marry each other, instead of the way Shelley envisioned it, where the mother asks them to marry as she lies on her deathbed. There are many other inconsistancies between this version that claims her name and Shelley's novel. I'm all for changing stories to create new ones, but don't claim something that isn't there.
on August 14, 2001
This is the sort of film that can be panned on just about every count, yet is enjoyable to relax in front of (perhaps on Halloween night) as one consumes popcorn, Milk Duds, and the other enjoyable "junk food," into which category this film fits neatly.
For literary types such as myself (who naturally blush to admit that they find this film rather fun), I suppose the fascination is in imagining what a fine concept the screen writer's had in this adaptation. Finding out more about Victor's motivation to create life, seeing how totally it dominated him, musing over how fascinating it would be for an adventurous medical student to meet a professor who combines ancient philosophy with modern science, seeing the blind man understand the sad plight of the monster - all could have been excellent devices for fleshing out Mary Shelley's often plodding tale.
Unfortunately, the ideas which could have been fine seasoning were laid on with too heavy a hand. The key word in this film is "excess" - over-acting, hysterics intended as dramatic impact, bizarre scenes, uproar out of proportion to the action. After a time, the memories of Victor's mother's death, which, combined with the excessive enthusiasm for new dimensions of medicine, which made sense in the early scenes seem macabre, with the unlikely conclusion coming forth that the death of the child born to her was the inevitable result of the chain of events her death set in motion.
I rated it as a "three" because what could have been interesting drama and failed has some entertainment value as high camp.