Supposedly the film version closest to the novel from 1812, Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean roots and predilection towards melodramatics and overblown acting often overshadow what is, otherwise, a very good film. With Robert DeNero cast as the unnamed monster, one could make the argument right there that this was worth seeing, which it certainly is.
The story is close to the novel, though takes a few liberties here and there which isn't such a bad thing. You know how it goes, more or less - Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant young medical student, begins looking for ways to create life out of the lifeless. He is befriended by a older scientist who came frighteningly close to having done this himself (played wonderfully by John Cleese). When Cleese dies, Frankenstein gets hellbent on correcting the mistakes Cleese had made and soon reassembles a "man" from the dead parts of executed criminals (his "raw materials"). Through a seriously wacky process (involving a giant tank filled electric eels) his creation comes to life and in an icky scene is left for dead after Frankenstein believes he has mistakenly killed it. Of course, the monster is not dead and escapes with Frankenstein's journal tucked into the coat he grabs on his way out.
Once hidden away deep in the forest, the monster reads the journal and comes to understand who/what he is. He lives off the scraps of a family farm, watching the family through cracks in the wall and developing a bond with them and their love for each other. Of course, once they find him they are instantly repelled and flee the scene causing heartbreak and rage within the monster who decides his beast course of action is to find "Frankenstein of Geneva" and get his revenge.
Having the monster be someone who is not only literate and vocal, but also painfully aware of what he is and who is he not really makes this much more tragic than other version of the story where the monster is a lumbering beast barely capable of stringing two words together. He is able to articulate the things that the audience could only imagine in their heads (not always a bad thing). When quizzing Frankenstein about why he created him he asks "Do I have a soul?" for example. It's similar to other classic Sci-Fi films in that respect: Blade Runner for example.
Though overwhelmingly a good film, there are some things that could have used a little more polish. While DeNero's makeup is wonderful (he looks much more like what the monster should look like - reassembled corpses) some of the other special effects are truly cheap. The screenplay is written well, but feels rushed and choppy at times with a score that never ceases to play in the background, occasionally muting some of the strong performances. DeNero is wonderful as are the other actors, but they are sometimes fed lines that are just cliched - the raising of one's fists to the sky and screaming "Nooooooooooooo!!!" coming to mind instantly.
Otherwise, thumbs up. Is that copyrighted?
- Complaint Depart