Frankenstein (1994) starring Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Briers, John Cleese, Robert Hardy directed by Kenneth Branagh Movie Review

Frankenstein (1994)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Kenneth Branagh as Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein (1994)

Kenneth's Creature Feature

Some times not being a great lover of literature has its plus points especially when it comes to movie adaptations because then I don't have the disappointment when someone messes with the original story. It is one of the things which often seems to crop up in reviews of "Frankenstein" especially from those who are studying the novel because in Kenneth Branagh's movie he incorporates elements from the book but also deviates. He also deviates from the norm because unlike other "Frankenstein" movies this version isn't a pure horror movie but a morality tale and in being so also causes some moaning from those who find the wordiness of it off putting. The thing is that Branagh's "Frankenstein" is at times too wordy but at the same time manages to mix in some expected gruesome moments with the depth of the subject matter, the obsessiveness of Frankenstein in creating the creature and the creature dealing with a lack of identity.

Having been discovered in the arctic by explorer Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn), Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh - Peter's Friends) recounts his life from meeting and falling in love with Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech) to witnessing his mother die in child birth before going to university where whilst meeting Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) became fascinated with the work of Professor Waldman (John Cleese). That work leads Frankenstein to bring to create The Creature (Robert De Niro) assembled from various body parts but in doing so realising his abomination rejects him. Having escaped the Creature takes shelter in the pigsty of a family in the woods where he learns to read and speak and in doing so vows revenge of Frankenstein for creating him.

Robert De Niro as The Creature in Frankenstein (1994)

So as you can assume from my admission of not being a lover of literature I have never read Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and that for me has its plus points. Most significantly whilst I discovered the Arctic bookend was faithful to Shelley's story there are numerous elements to Branagh's version which deviates from the original version. But that means I am not bothered by the fact it suggests Frankenstein's mother died giving birth to his younger brother or that it suggests that Frankenstein didn't meet Henry till he went to university because when it comes to the bigger picture the deviances are unimportant.

Now as to that bigger picture well this version of "Frankenstein" is definitely not just a horror movie. It certainly has horror moments from macabre scenes from a back street abortionist collecting amniotic fluid to various scenes featuring meat cleavers and well timed sound effects, none more so when ever anyone ends up with their head in a noose. But the real focus of this version is on the Frankenstein's obsessiveness to create life whilst also on The Creature trying to deal with who he is and whether he has a soul. It certainly makes this version a movie with depth which makes it much more interesting than those who just revel in the gothic horror of the story.

But that also means that this version of Frankenstein" is very wordy with as much delivered through long conversations as it is visually. And with Branagh directing this version is a very thespian affair which at times feels long winded and over written as well as occasionally over acted none more so in the movies few romantic scenes which to me ended up as overkill. In a way, and this might be down to the casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, Branagh's version of "Frankenstein" feels like a Tim Burton movie which is lacking the darkness, quirks and Johnny Depp but has that distinct gothic styling.

What this version of "Frankenstein" also has is some great performances with a cast lead by Branagh and De Niro doing a very good job of making their characters real, especially De Niro who behind the latex manages to get across the dilemma of the Creature whilst also its dark side. But it is also the smaller performances, Richard Briers as the Grandfather, John Cleese and Robert Hardy as lecturers and Helena Bonham Carter who is perfect as Elizabeth make this movie tick.

What this all boils down to is that this version of "Frankenstein" is definitely not for everyone especially those wanting pure horror or those studying Mary Shelley's original novel. It is by no means perfect and for me is over written but it delivers an interesting look into the obsessiveness of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature dealing with what he is.