Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Movie Name: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hulce, Aidan Quinn, Ian Holm, Richard Briers, John Cleese, Robert Hardy, Cherie Lunghi, Celia Imrie
Genre: Drama, Horror, Romance
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2

When Kenneth Branagh's "Frankenstein" premiered in 1994, the actor/director was coming off from the well received "Much Ado about Nothing" (and to a certain extent, the lesser seen "Peter's Friends" and "Dead Again"). The film aimed at capitalizing on the classic monster genre, which had been successfully re-started with Francis Ford Coppola's and his beautiful "Bram Stoker's Dracula". However whereas Coppola's had an operatic and luscious perspective, Branagh's was mostly loud, garish and without much sense of direction. The film follows the novel of Mary Shelley, focusing on Victor Frankenstein's attempts at re-creating life, following the unfortunate death of his mother, during childbirth. Frankenstein, a brilliant student, successfully manages to create a man using different body parts, against the advice of his teacher and mentor and his other close friends. This man/creature, however seeing himself as a monster, sets about destroying his creator for leaving him in such an agonizing shape and without a companion. Frankenstein ends up paying an extremely high cost for playing God.
Kenneth Branagh's has thus far had a very uneven directorial career: his best feature is still to this day, his debut, the classic and justly lauded, "Henry V" which came out in 1989 (and landed him Oscar nominations in both acting and directing). "Frankenstein" sadly feels like a missed opportunity for the director - as has become his staple, there's a general lack of style and substance in the way the story is approached. The characters for all their dazzling and movements, feel like puppets, without much motivation, or depth for that matter. Branagh tries to compensate for his lack of character exploration, by increasing the volume of the soundtrack and the scale of the sets that seem to dwarf their characters in comparison. He also focuses too much attention on shirtless shots of himself, while trying to create the creature - the film seems random, and insufficiently focused on what it should be. The talents of the diversified cast are squandered away, particularly the fantastic Helena Bonham Carter who has little to do with her part. Unlike "Bram Stoker's Dracula" who used a baroque and unique perspective to depict the events of the novel upon which it was based, "Frankenstein" (whose screenplay had the contribution of the talented Frank Darabont) tries to be overly faithful to the novel, without bringing a distinct point of view. The final result is as inert as the monster that the film tries to bring to life. A sadly missed opportunity.