Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Reviewed by Diane Squires
Rating: 6.5 Beans
his is the first stop on the Kenneth Branagh Descent into Mediocrity Ride. It a fast plunge from quality work towards some of the most boring overblown, overacted schlock ever filmed in the name of "art". Let's all climb aboard shall we?
In all fairness, much of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is faithful to the spirit of the book it's based on. It manages to include all the painfully thought provoking (read: boring) bits that all those other Frankensteins glossed over. You know the drill, man's inhumanity to man, science versus morality, men aspiring to play god or scrabble etcetera. Enough of being fair, let's fasten our seatbelts for the bumpy part of the ride.
Kenneth Branagh has cast himself in the role of Frankenstein. As our story opens, he has run off to Antarctica to escape Robert de Niro, who has been chasing him across the globe in order to ask him why he got stuck playing the crappy monster. We flashback to Kenny's happy childhood, which raises the question why don't any of those other Frankenstein films fill us in on our hero's early development? Maybe because nobody freaking cares, ya think? Baby Kenny cavorts with some other characters until his mom dies horribly in childbirth.
Skip forward to grownup Kenneth Branagh, giving a brilliant performance as Kenneth Branagh in a period suit. Kenneth lives a happy and carefree life with Helena Bonham Carter, who plays his fiancee. In his spare time, he plays with lightning and then goes off to school to chop up dead people. One day, he meets live Robert de Niro, who promptly kills John Cleese (probably because John Cleese doesn't belong in a movie like this one) and then gets hung. Realizing that he has just offed the only decent actor in the film, Kenneth packs up De Niro's corpse, hacks up De Niro's corpse and dumps whatever's left into a bunch of goo to cook. Presto, in a few days De Niro returns to life as an actor drenched in effects makeup. Shocked and dismayed to realize that he is still in this movie, De Niro runs off to plot revenge.
All of a sudden, Kenneth's nearest and dearest begin shuffling off this mortal coil. It's kinda hard to remember who they are, so don't worry about missing them. You won't. The De Niro Monster tells confronts Kenneth and tells him that either he had better change the plot of the movie to "Bride of Frankenstein" or he's gonna off Helena Bonham Carter, thus screwing over any chance of attracting Merchant Ivory fans to the theatre. Kenneth stands firm, so it's bye bye Bonham Carter.
Seeing as a forced return from the dead worked so well with De Niro (well outside of the homicidal rampage), Branagh decides to do the same with Bonham Carter. I guess that would make this "Mary Shelley's Bride of Frankenstein" but oh wait, Mary Shelley didn't write that, so I guess this was an original plot twist. Awakening from the dead rather disoriented and somewhat pissed off that the film isn't over, Helena sets the lab on fire and oopsie immolates herself in the process.
This all brings us back to De Niro and Branagh in Antarctica. Now it's time to disembark as the moral of the story plays over the loudspeakers, "It's not nice to bring the taxi driver back from the dead."
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