If there is one thing that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has in bucketloads, it is style. A gorgeous movie that is shot wonderfully and utilises its locations, sets and period to fantastic effect. If there is one reason to watch this re-telling of the Frankenstein story, it is for how beautiful it is at times.
You’ll need that reason because there aren’t many others.
Based on the classic Mary Shelley novel, directed by Kenneth Branagh and with a screenplay by Steph Lady and Frank Darabont. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has an all star cast that includes Branagh himself as Dr Victor Frankenstein, Robert De Niro as the monster and Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein. As well as Ian Holm as Baron Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s elderly father, John Cleese as Professor Waldman and Aidan Quinn as Captain Robert Walton. Amongst many, many others.
It’s an impressive cast and they’re often able to lift this movie out of the doldrums it sinks too but they can’t save it from being a hilariously cheesy experience.
Taking liberties with the source material but being one of the more accurate re-tellings of Shelley’s work. The movie begins in 1794 in Arctic Sea where Captain Walton is facing a mutiny. Trapped in the ice, his men wish to go home but he insists on pushing on which is met with resistance from the crew.
However, before things get out of hand the men discover Victor Frankenstein, travelling across the Arctic alone. Near death, he recants his life story to the Captain and the crew.
We’re then introduced to a young Victor who has grown up in Geneva alongside his family and adopted sister Elizabeth. The two share a special bound that has flowered into love but the death of Victor’s mother in childbirth traumatises him. Determined to conquer death, he heads off to Ingolstadt to attend university where his questioning of his peers see him considered mad.
Determined to rewrite the rules surrounding death, Victor along with his friend meet a professor who successfully reanimated a corpse. The professor refuses to share his details with Victor though as he believes what he created was an abomination.
As luck would have it, the professor is killed by a patient shortly afterwards so Victor is able to get his notes. Not only that, he uses the man’s brain along with other body parts to create his own creature.
His obsession leads to him locking himself away, even from Elizabeth when she visits. While an outbreak of cholera decimates the city.
Victor is successful but disgusted with what he has done, so tries to kill his creation. The monster manages to escape and is driven out of the town by the people who believe, upon seeing his scarred face, that he is the cause of the rampant disease.
Victor comes to his senses and believing his creation dead, heads home to marry Elizabeth and live happily ever after. Whereas the monster hides out at a farmhouse, learns to read and discovers his creation from Frankenstein’s diary.
Lonely and shunned by those he tries to help, the monster decides to track Frankenstein down and force him to make him a bride.
That’s a short synopsis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and makes it sound far pacier and interesting then it is. It’s not, it’s over 2 hours long and slows down to a mind-numbing crawl on numerous occasions. Mostly when we’re alone with the monster as he discovers his humanity and when we’re with Victor and Elizabeth. As they declare their love for each other over and over and over again.
It’s incredibly boring regardless of how much energy Branagh tries to put into the role. He is a delight throughout, over-acting at times to hilarious results but Bonham Carter is far too bland. Elsewhere De Niro is an odd casting choice but gives the monster some humanity and turns in a memorable role.
Perhaps the biggest flaw with this retelling is how it goes from nought to one hundred in an instant. You’ll find yourself half asleep through the monotony of it all and then bang, it takes off like a rocket and you’re desperately trying to cling on and make sense of what happened.
Playing out like a period drama with occasional startling moments of gore, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein isn’t even worth watching for scares.
However, none of this is to say it is a bad movie. It just misses the mark for what a memorable and impactful horror should be. If 30 minutes of the fat was trimmed off, we might be talking a lot more favourably about it.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
The Final Score - 5/10