Talk about stitched together.
Another day, another Frankenstein remake. When Mary Shelley dreamt up a spooky story to tell her husband Percy and Lord Byron during their hippie free love vacation weekend, did she know she was creating a tale that would echo throughout the decades? Probably not, but the myth of Frankenstein continues to be part of our collective consciousness. In 2015, we got yet another new take on the story, from writer-director Bernard Rose (Immortal Beloved).
The version of the story comes to us with two big conceits. First is that it takes place in the modern day, beginning in a hospital, and eventually having the monster wander the city’s back alleys among the homeless while avoiding the cops. Second, and perhaps most important, the entire story is told from the monster’s point of view. This means we skip most of Dr. Frankenstein’s mad desires, instead starting the movie with the monster opening his eyes, and focusing solely on his experiences from there on.
This version of Frankenstein picks and chooses from previous versions so much, it becomes a game of “spot the reference” after a while. Someone shouts “It’s alive!” There’s friendship with an old blind man. There’s fear of fire. However, the ways these references are used in the film make the film confusing. Early on, we get this movie’s take on the monster encountering the little girl by the lake. We all know he’s going to throw the girl in the water, but this time the twist is that he then jumps in and saves her. This speaks to him being a misunderstood monster, an innocent. Later, though, the movie goes extremely dark, with the monster unleashing horrific violence against others. An argument could be made that this is character progression, as it’s the monster’s response to discovering the uglier aspects of humanity, but too often it merely feels inconsistent—a series of references to Frankensteins of the past, and little more.
The movie stumbles in other areas as well. Dr. Frankenstein (Danny Huston, 30 Days of Night) isn’t in the movie enough to make any kind of an impression. The monster has some run-ins with a couple of jerk cops, who are like cartoon characters in their over-the-top jerkiness. The cops are blustering anger, dropping multiple F-bombs in every sentence. They are so goofy and caricatured that they work against the “Frankenstein in today’s world” premise.
It’s not all bad. Xavier Samuel (Fury) really goes for it as the monster, portraying a lot of raw emotion in long non-dialogue scenes. Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) plays Dr. Frankenstein’s wife Marie, with more screentime than the doctor, nicely establishing a mother/son dynamic with the monster. Genre veteran Tony Todd (Candyman) brings usual cool professionalism to the man who befriends the monster. Finally, the makeup is impressive, and appropriately gross, so that the monster looks truly monstrous.
Frankenstein (2015) arrives on Blu-ray with decent picture and audio. Colors are intentionally muted, but some outdoor scenes give the tech a chance to shine. Dialogue is clear, with an additional nice balance with score and sound effects. No extras.
This take on the classic tale has some things to like about it, but it stands too deep in shadow of those that came before it.