"EVIL WILL HAVE ITS REVENGE"
A review by Emma Jackson
The Arctic Sea 1794. The film opens with the icy chaos of Walton's (Aiden Quinn) expedition to the North Pole. We hear an eerie howl and as Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) emerges through the freezing mist we see the solitary, bloody hand of the monster as he nears the object of his revenge.
Geneva 1773. We are taken back in time to the childhood of Victor and Elizabeth, (his adopted sister), then with little warning taken on another 20 years where the incidents that will shape Victor's destiny are gathered. His Mother dies in childbirth in a scene worthy of 'ER', (not exactly true to the text, but I have to admit, effectively dramatic) and Victor decides that 'No one need never die'. An added howl might have been appropriate at this point.
At this point, little scenes that don't appear in the text keep cropping up. Victor's experiment with lightening and kites is rather twee but illustrates the main theme of the film.
Victor decides at this point that he would quite like to marry his sister, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), as you do, but instead goes off to Ingolstadt under the guise of training to be a doctor, but in reality to do some of his dodgy research. Here he manages to rent a HUGE attic (which I am sure Mary Shelley would be proud of as she had him digs that measured approximately one foot square) and meets his mentor, Dr Waldman (John Cleese). John Cleese, as expected, puts in a startling performance as a man experimenting with electricity and animal tissue and proceeds to warn Victor of the dangers of playing God. Unfortunately, Waldman is killed by a man with the pox. This rather pisses Victor off so he embarks on his quest to create man with venom.
After a touch of grave robbing and taking amniotic fluid from pregnant women (I obviously missed that page) he creates his 'Birthing Tank'. Here Mr Branagh is perhaps missing Ms Bonham Carter as he creates a scene in which she visits him at Ingolstadt but she manages to miss his massive equipment and goes home, slightly peeved.
Victor now turns into a man possessed, excellently portrayed by Branagh and we begin to sense he means business when he takes his shirt off. An incredibly powerful scene then ensues where Victor gives birth to Robert De Niro using a few electric eels and some long needles. As they writhe about the floor, embraced in the amniotic fluid, the Monster struggles to find his legs like a little baby lamb. However, it soon strikes Victor that he has committed a terrible evil and that his 'child' is really quite ugly, so he retires to bed. The Monster, realising that his 'Father' has rejected him frightens Victor in his bed and then runs off to the woods.
We already feel sympathy for the Monster in his struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world and with a countenance so hideous that he is the Devil to any body who catches sight of him. Here, at last, is a production of Frankenstein that actually restores speech back to the Monster and his learning's are eloquent in their simplicity and well portrayed by De Niro. However, as the Monster begins to understand who (or what) he is from reading Victor's journal, he becomes malevolent and vengeful.
The film finally begins to gather pace and the downfall of Victor is inevitable. The scene in which Justine (Trevyn McDowell) is hanged for the murder of William is incredibly powerful and brilliantly executed, quite literally.
The Monster now decides he would like a similarly hideous female companion and asks Victor to do the dirty deed. Victor agrees but at the last minute abandons the idea and marries Elizabeth instead. Although Victor is slightly 'on edge' we have the obligatory sex scene although it is a case of coitus interuptus as the Monster enters and rips out Elizabeth's heart.
Here Stephen King has obviously taken over the script writing as we enter some sort of twilight zone. Victor attempts to bring his wife back to life by swapping her head with that of the dead Justine and then dances with the life-given corpse of his virgin bride. Unfortunately the Monster spies all this and declares that he would quite like her for himself, presumably because they have matching stitching. Elizabeth, after deciding that having two madmen trying to snog you after you're dead is quite enough, thank you, sets herself and the house on fire and so the end is set.
The Arctic Sea 1794. Victor dies, pretty knackered after having chased the Monster all over the place and managing to have his whole family killed off. The Monster is distraught at the death of his 'Father', cries like a baby and after declaring that he is "done with Man", throws himself on Victor's funeral pyre.
OK, Mr Branagh. The whole point of you naming your film 'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' was as an indicator that you had stayed faithful to the text. Unless you have been on the ouija board and had some scenes specifically written for you, I believe that this is rather a misleading title. Granted, your Monster didn't have a bolt through it's neck and big shoes and you have a right to some artistic licence but adding irrelevant scenes purely for titillation does rather defeat the object. However, due to the fact that I have such a massive, schoolgirly crush on you, I am willing to forgive you this episode as you have managed to create a powerful and moving film regardless of it's little 'extras'.