There’s something about the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation that has endured particularly in film, which makes it somewhat ironic that several of the most recognised elements aren’t from Mary Shelley’s novel. Most notably, of course, the whole stitching of body parts, lightning and “It’s alive!” owe more to James Whale’s 1931 movie than Shelley’s writing.
Recently in particular the rate of Frankensteinian (yes it is a word!) films seems to have increased, and the first four months of 2016 alone are seeing three movies and a TV series released on UK DVD/BluRay – and that’s without including any rereleases (or Hotel Transylvania 2, because, well, just because!) – so it takes something a bit different to stand out.
Fortunately, from the offset the simply-titled Frankenstein (marketed last year with the slightly misjudged moniker Frank3n5t31n) stands out, and in all of the right ways. Quoting directly from Shelley’s text and recreating scenes both from it and from Whale’s adaptation, it still keeps a distinct identity while updating the story in a very natural way for the world of today. The script has a sensitivity to it that maintains a feeling of freshness whilst still doing justice to the original novel, possibly by the focus on the creature’s character. This Frankenstein is all about its Adam and follows him from his first moments through his experiences of life and the world, and it really works.
Part of this is due to excellent performances from a great cast – Xavier Samuel puts in a thoughtful performance as Adam that showcases the emotional development through events, and Danny Huston and Carrie-Anne Moss are an engaging team as the married scientists for whom Adam became a personal as well as professional undertaking. And Tony Todd is eclectic as the occaisonally-Ray-Charles-channelling Eddie, with some impressive singing too!
Bringing those together is writer/director Bernard Rose, and his passion for the project is evident in both aspects. He’s always had a subtle touch at visually crafting characters beyond a striking look – Candyman being a prime example – and this is no exception. (As a wonderfully circular piece of trivia, the sequel to Candyman was directed by Bill Condon who went on to helm James Whale biopic Gods and Monsters, and was written by Rand Ravich whose latest series Second Chance was known during production as The Frankenstein Code). Both faithful and unique, it may sound like a cobbled-together beast but really does have a life of its own and is a rewarding watch.
Rose’s Frankenstein is a gripping, engaging and surprisingly emotional movie that deserves a larger audience, and certainly stands out among other adaptations. Catch it on 22nd February on DVD or Blu-Ray from Signature Entertainment.