tek's rating: "meh" and three quarters, I guess

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (R)
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This came out in 1994, but I didn't see it until 2016. It is probably the most faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, that has ever been filmed. (I finished reading the novel for the first time on Halloween morning of 2016, and watched the movie that night.) I definitely appreciated the movie's faithfulness, but not all movie viewers did, because it's certainly not what anyone who's never read the book would be expecting in a Frankenstein movie. That being said, I actually wish it would have been even more faithful than it was. (In my review of the novel, I noted that a line of the Creature's essentially describes himself with with the concept of the "uncanny valley." When watching this movie, I thought its likeness to the novel- so close, but just different enough to be disappointing- made the movie itself a sort of "uncanny valley" in relation to the novel.) The movie includes most of the major plot points of the original story, which to my knowledge, no other Frankenstein movie has ever done. And it makes the Creature (played here by Robert De Niro) more intelligent and better-spoken than most versions of the character (although his voice was still coarser than I imagined it when reading the book). However, the movie does change a few details of the story, as well as adding some entirely new plot points. And worst of all, the plot points from the novel that were included felt too rushed to me, sort of glossed over, which to me, deprived the story of much of the heart of the original story. So I ended up not particularly caring about any of the characters, unlike the novel.

Anyway, like the novel, it begins with a ship searching for a route to the North Pole, captained by Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn). The crew rescues a man named Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed), who relates his story to the captain. Um... I'm writing this review nearly a week after I watched the movie, and already I've forgotten a lot of details. Besides which, if you want to know what happened, you might as well just read my review of the book. I would say that Victor's fiancée, Elizabeth Lavenza (Helena Bonham Carter) has a slightly expanded role in the movie, and certainly Professor Waldman (John Cleese) has an expanded role. And there's this whole thing about a cholera epidemic that wasn't in the book. (One added scene I did take a sort of grim pleasure in was seeing a murderer hanged, since his crime was based in a profound distrust of vaccination. He was basically an 18th century equivalent of today's anti-vaxxers, who really piss me off. Not that I'm saying they should be hanged, but... still, the scene was a bit cathartic for me, or something. I dunno.)

Well... Victor creates his monster, then regrets it, then assumes the monster must have died of cholera (because why not?), and he returns from Ingolstadt (where he'd been studying medicine) to his home in Geneva, intent upon marrying his adopted "cousin," Elizabeth. Yada yada yada, more stuff from the book happens and more stuff is left out. In particular I want to mention that when Victor is confronted by his creation, the Creature's story is much shorter than in the book. And then there's a completely new scene involving Elizabeth that I don't even want to talk about. Partly to avoid spoiling it, and partly because it was just ridiculous and awful. (Seriously, if not for that bit, I might have rated the movie one whole smiley.)

And I guess I don't really want to say any more about the plot. I did like the production values and the acting (really, this was almost more of a period piece than a horror movie), and I'll reiterate that I appreciated the effort to keep the movie mostly faithful to the book. But it was also more of an action movie than a horror movie, and not in a good way. If Branagh would have just slowed the pace and stuck with a single genre (or even just two genres), and if he had taken fewer liberties with the original story, I think it could have been a really good movie. But it ended up being a frenetic, if stylish, mess.

Gothic horror index

Novel: Frankenstein
(The following is a list of things I've seen or want to see. There have been countless other things that have adapted or parodied the novel.)

Adaptations: Frankenstein (1931) * The Curse of Frankenstein * Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Loose adaptations: Young Frankenstein * I, Frankenstein * Victor Frankenstein
Parodies: The Rocky Horror Picture Show * Frankenweenie (1984) * Transylvania 6-5000 * Mary Shelley's Frankenhole * Frankenweenie (2012)
Ensembles: The Munsters * Drak Pack * The Monster Squad * Van Helsing * Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl * Hotel Transylvania * Once Upon a Time * Penny Dreadful