By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Director Kenneth Branagh has earned notoriety filming literary classics. His movies "Henry V" and "Much Ado About Nothing" were popular takes on Shakespeare. His latest effort, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," is a flamboyant production based on Shelley's famous 1818 novel.
The result is a visually stunning Grand Guignol extravaganza that suffers mildly from trying to please too many people at once.
The story depicts a brilliant scientist, Victor Frankenstein (Branagh), who tries to cheat death by creating a human being. However, he is quickly overcome with revulsion and abandons his deformed creature (Robert De Niro), leaving it to forge a lonely and confused existence.
Victor's future wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) despairs at his hidden obsession. She, along with the creature's tragic efforts to join humanity, provides the emotional crux of the film.
The movie questions who is more iniquitous: the monster who kills in anguished revenge, or the creator who fails to nurture his offspring. The movie enjoyably takes the time to develop its themes concerning obsessive behavior and procreative responsibility.
Robert De Niro ("This Boy's Life") conveys the anguish and subsequent rage of the creature through layers of hideous makeup. However, it is a slight irritation that someone so famous plays the creature. His skill as an actor encourages too many lingering close-ups that allow the audience to grow used to his appearance.
Helena Bonham Carter ("Howards End") adds amazing physicality to her role. The passion between Victor and Elizabeth intensifies the creature's loneliness.
Branagh attacks his subject matter with startling visual intensity. Victor's feverish moments of creation are genuinely exciting, with sweeping camera movements, grandiose activity, and frenzied editing.
But the movie is part Gothic literature, part popular personages and part cinema, and each of its parts eats a little into the other. The literary pace is slower than most horror fare, the use of De Niro softens the creature's mystery and the
movie's time frame enforces a shorter ending and new climax that will probably offend the novel's aficionados.
But many of the aforementioned irritations can be avoided by leaving expectations at home. As its own presentation, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" offers invigorating cinema and relevant themes too often left out of the horror genre. The movie transcends the usual horror fare and its baroque flamboyance is a sight to behold.
"Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is showing at Century Park 16, 620-0750.
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