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4.0 out of 5 stars93
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on 4 February 2010
Overall I like this adaption of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein. I know that opinions are very mixed on this film but I think some of the more negative reviews are a bit unfair. Yes it's overblown and over the top in places, but it is a gothic horror story so what else is to be expected?

The performances are very good: Robert De Niro is impressive in a very different role for him (the monster). Kenneth Brannagh (who also directs the film) is perfect as Frankenstein, a young man whose frenzied ambition clouds his judgement. But it's the look and style of the film that makes it: huge, ornate and looming sets that really make the scenes come alive.

Although there have been a few liberties taken with the plot, overall it is the same. More importantly the original themes and ideas still come through (science altering humanity too much, for example).

Yes, the film is a bit overbaked, and at times can feel a bit hammy, but that doesn't stop it from being a very enjoyable film, especially if you like the book. I think Mary Shelley's novel is one of the greatest of all time and this film is a very worthy adaption. Recommended!
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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a masterful motion picture. While it does take a few liberties with Shelley's classic novel, it does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the original story, specifically the humanity of the creature. While a little over-the-top at times and surprisingly gory, this film forcefully echoes Shelley's philosophical, moral, and ethical questions, and by so doing redefines the creature in its original image. What I have always found to be the most crucial scenes in the story are here displayed in all of their troubling glory, and perhaps it is the heightened intellectual nature of this film that explains why a surprisingly large number of people find disappointment where I find stimulating triumph. There are enough horror-laden scenes to capture the attention of the general horror lover, but the real substance of this story, for those who prefer their monster to serve as a complicated, amoral representation of man himself, is ambrosia for those who are more fascinated by the questions Frankenstein raises than by the horrors he unleashes.
The inspiration for young Victor Frankenstein's obsession with conquering death is delineated pretty clearly, given its most intense emotional charge by the death of his doting mother while giving birth to his little brother. His time at university is a little rushed, however, strangely incorporating the influence of a mentor whose work Victor vows to complete; where the older doctor halted his studies out of fear, Victor will push over the brink without hesitation. Victor's lab is a bit overdone, featuring all manner of miscellaneous gizmos, vials, and wossnames that look impressive with blue bolts of electricity (not generated by lightning, by the way) pulsing through them. The monster, as we first meet him, is less than impressive, and a prolonged scene of Victor water-wrestling a guy wearing a patently fake body suit inserts a little unfortunate levity into what should be a most serious scene. Victor's reaction to his creation is probably the weakest spot in an otherwise powerful film, as his sudden repudiation of everything he has ever worked for rings patently false.
It is with the entrance of the monster, however, that this film truly begins to shine. Mary Shelley's monster is not evil, nor is he a monster in the stereotypical sense by which he has come to be viewed by modern audiences. He is most definitely a victim and a creature deserving of much sympathy. Abandoned by his creator, his first interaction with mankind finds him fleeing a mob intent on hurting him for no reason apart from his ugliness. He takes shelter in a pigsty adjoined to a simple house in the country, and through a crack in the wall he not only learns to read and write, he gets to experience vicariously the joys and travails of family life. He becomes a guardian angel of sorts, secretly helping the family survive and prosper. At Christmas, in a truly touching scene, he finds a gift the family has left outside for their secret helper. One day, he gets a chance to actually interact with the blind old man of the house, sitting and conversing with another human for the first time in his wretched life, but all too quickly the family he had come to think of as his own, chases him away with blows and curses. If your heart does not break at the sight of the creature sobbing in the forest after this ultimate betrayal by mankind, you are the true monster. This whole scene is absolutely critical in terms of explaining who the monster is and why he does what he goes on to do, yet most film adaptations skip this scene entirely. Only now does the creature vow to seek revenge on the creator who abandoned him; only now has this ultimate victim become a monster in the form of amoral man.
The rest of the film is handled quite well, and Helena Bonham Carter is simply wonderful in her role as Victor's significant other. The ending goes beyond the scope of the original novel, and it does so in a strikingly grisly way, but the overall effect of this film is true to Shelley's original vision. Robert De Niro gives a particularly compelling performance as Frankenstein's monster, the look and feel of the late eighteenth-century setting is spot on, and the musical soundtrack complements the plot extraordinarily well. While I would prefer to see a movie strictly faithful to Shelley's novel, this exemplary albeit somewhat effusive adaptation hits the core messages of the story dead on and stands, in my opinion, as a truly impressive cinematic accomplishment.
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This is a particularly dark adaptation of the Frankenstein story, with a chillingly gothic sense of atmosphere. Branagh also succeeds in bringing a Shakesperian level of tragedy to the drama, rather than falling into the trap of focusing too exclusively on the macabre. De Niro makes a particularly fine re-animated creature, offering a suitable sense of pathos and frustratation at the lack of acceptance which ultimately provokes furious belligerence. His monster is one to be pitied as much as feared. The performance is far superior to Luke Goss' effort in the more recent adaptation (although it's hardly surprising that the veteran actor has rather more to offer than a man whose greatest achievement is former-membership of the band 'Bros'). Branagh takes us back to the gritty roots of Mary Shelley's literary classic. His obvious in-depth knowledge of the story lends a real air of authenticity, with none of the external clichés that are so frequently tacked-on by those who are blissfully ignorant towards the original text. His only glaring error comes in the reference to the monster's creator as 'Frankenstein'. As everyone knows, Frankenstein is the monster's name.
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VINE VOICEon 9 November 2003
Neopolitan ice cream; chocolate, straberry and vanilla. Which do you take first? People can often spend ridiculous amounts of time choosing things which seem trivial at best. Movies are not ice cream, this is serious business.....
.....the difficulty in writing a review is that everybody watches movies in different ways. Some are attracted to cast, some are attracted to plot, some to action, some to setting. Frankenstein is packed full of absolutely everything that a movie needs to be successful, so ask yourselves; what am I looking for here? Are you looking just to see the scar make-up on the monster? Are you watching to enjoy fantastic performances by a delightful British cast? Are you watching to enjoy the most modern screen-adaptation of a story that you read when you were young?.....
....whatever your purpose, I suggest you BUY this DVD. Branagh has given this movie everything; his cast is first-class, and the story is not only very powerful, but very moving as well. It is the single, only and last adaptation to ever capture the true torment and anguish of the Frankenstein 'Monster'. As a fellow reviewer has said, De-Niro captures the need for sympathy in the Monster very well. He shows us the need for acceptance and the desire to learn......frankly, this movie teaches us all something about our own existance. Do you remember all the times you have seen people be treated as outsiders because they do not fit the description of 'normal'? It happens every day.
If you have not seen this movie; if you have not considered it, consider it now because this movie is more than just another Frankenstein flick. This is companionship, friendship, a great love story and extrememly glamorous and well designed sets rolled into one huge cinematic offering, and it needs to be enjoyed by all. Just wait until you see the power of the will bring tears to your eyes.
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One of the trio of revisionist horror movies all released within a couple of years in the early 1990s, along with ‘Bram Stoker’s’ Dracula and Wolf, this abomination also has to add the name of the author of the source material to persuade us there is, at least, some connection to the original. However, Branagh, in this ludicrously melodramatic claptrap, rather than capturing Frankenstein’s torment, succeeds only in serving up a wildly over the top narcissist rampaging around in what looks like a cast off Lenny the Lion wig! In fact, everyone looks as if they’re on speed prancing around in a gigantically empty castle with a living room the size of a football pitch populated by a single chair: what in Heaven’s name is that all about?

The answer may well be that the oversized set mirrors the oversized ego that gave it birth, the result being just as empty as the monstrous film that ensued.

To add insult to injury we have Frankenstein as rock god: a kind of even more demented Jim Morrison in the hideous form of Branagh’s naked torso gyrating at almost every available opportunity – yuk!
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on 30 March 2014
My only qualm with this, is that after they find the lil kid that was killed by the monster...the rain is coming down heavy, they rush to cover his corpse in a blanket...and for a split second you see the child's hand pull the blanket over himself. Great movie thought. Helen L B Carter - Perfect and beautiful as always.
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on 10 November 2015
Why they gave Kenneth Branagh the job for this all time classic movie, I'll never know. And why did Robert De Niro decide to play the creature???
I hope they do another remake of this classic story but this is just an awful film. The acting absolutely over the top and the print could have been better.
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on 19 August 2013
I love this film. I first saw it on TV and it took me a while to realise the Robert De Niro was actually playing the monster as I didn't se it from the start.! He was really good and makes a change from the usual characters he plays.
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on 20 July 2012
It's hard to over-rate the importance of Kenneth Branagh to the development and maintenance of modern British film and TV. His serialisation of Olivia Manning's "Balkan Trilogy" was masterful; his "Wallander" is better than either of the Swedish versions; some of the best (and criminally overlooked) British films of recent years include "Dead Again", "The Theory of Flight" and "In the Bleak Midwinter"; and his TV serial covering the genesis of World Cinema was nothing short of superb.
But he shot himself in the foot with "Frankenstein".
It is asking for trouble to undertake yet another version of the famous novel when so many other, culturally indelible, versions of the story (most notably the James Whale films of the 1930's) have gone before. Add to this the casting of wildly inappropriate superstars in key parts, presumably in an attempt to gain box-office appeal, and you've got the potential for disaster.
His first mistake was to try and put a modern, fashionable spin on the characterisation of Victor Frankenstein, instead of portraying him as the obsessive monomaniac that we normally see. It looks like he felt compelled to show us what a frightfully normal, fun-loving family man dear Victor really was at heart, so for the first half of the film we're treated to the sight of him and his irritating family being all cuddly and loving, going on picnics, attending Balls and fecundating like a bed of oysters. Luckily, though, once this has been established, they are all killed off by one grisly means or another, leaving the way clear for lots of "NOOOOOOOOOOOO"s from Victor, the development of the rest of the story, and quite a lot of unintentionally funny moments.
Then there is the casting. Branagh has an unofficial little rep company of his own including, inter alia, Helena Bonham-Carter, Hugh Bonneville, Richard Briers and Gerard Horan, actors he clearly feels comfortable with, who can be relied upon to turn in a good performance, and all of whom appear here in greater or lesser roles. Nothing wrong with that, they're all good actors and I like the lot of them. But for some unknown reason - presumably to boost the box-office potential - he chose to cast Robert De Niro as the Monster.
Big, BIG mistake.
Don't get me wrong. De Niro is, IMHO, one of the greatest screen actors who's ever lived. But he was totally wrong for this role. It would have been better to cast a total unknown in the role (as happened with William Pratt in the original 1931 James Whale film) than to have someone as instantly recognisable as De Niro. The result was not the vulnerable Prometheus of 1931, but good old Bob wandering around in risible make-up and a cloak like a ballgown. As if that wasn't bad enough, the monster develops from naked babe to poetically articulate nemesis with unseemly haste (he relearns to speak and read in about five minutes flat, leaving us to wonder why, if his recall is that good, he doesn't remember who he was before Victor got hold of his brain). The result is unconvincing in the extreme.
As if this wasn't bad enough, he cast John Cleese (wearing a goofy set of dentures so we can't see who it is) as Prof. Waldman, a "maverick" medic at his medical school who also had a go at creating life from spare parts years before, and who is now a pariah in the medical community. Now, J.C. was great in his day as a comedian, but has never hacked it as a straight actor, and doesn't do so here. I kept expecting him to start swallowing a necklace or shouting through a megaphone. Some comedians can make the leap to straight drama - look at Billy Connolly in "Mrs Brown", or (astonishingly) Freddie Starr in "The Squeeze" - but Cleese never has. He was yet another annoying distraction in an already creaking film, and I was glad when he was bumped off (ironically by old Bob, pre-reassembly).
In my opinion, the best and most accurate version of the Frankenstein story was a now forgotten, made-for-TV film released back in 1973, with David MacCallum, James Mason and Michael Sarrazin. That version has, undeservedly, slipped into oblivion. I can only hope that it is joined by this feeble, misconceived mess.

P.S. I've recently found that the 1973 version (1979 according to other sources) is now available on DVD.
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on 1 February 2016
Anything that makes teaching this awful book to year 9 any easier has my vote. Shame that some of the parents refused permission for them to watch it as it's a really good adaptation
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