Captain Robert Walton leads his men toward the north pole, but crash into an iceberg on the way there. Out of the ice a man runs and joins them. After he is inside the ship, the man tells of how he was once Victor Frankenstein and came to create his Monster.
This is a case of too much action being put into a story that isn't meant to have much. The film puts all the pieces in place from the novel, but doesn't spend any time with them. It rushes through most of the character development and story. It even has this strange, often obsessive fire motif, that doesn't amount to anything. The fire motif really gets weird in the scene as though fire is just like napalm. There is also a curious amount of forced conflict between Victor & Elizabeth and Victor & his teachers when they should have focused on Victor and the Monster. Plus, there is a significant change in the plot that could have been really interesting, but it ends far too quickly and incredibly unsatisfactorily.
Victor Frankenstein is a decadent playboy who becomes obsessed with restoring life after his mother dies. Director Kenneth Branagh plays the title character, which you might think would mean more screen time, but sadly no. The character's drive to create life is understandable, but his passions get mixed and he becomes truly perplexing by the end.
Elizabeth is Victor's adoptive sister and lover. It is a little bit of squiggly territory, but it was more common back then and it was in the book. She is given an expanded roll, which does more accurately reflect how she she might feel about her circumstances. However, this is the cause of many of Victor's weird emotive turns. Since, though her actions have changes, Victor is still riding the rails of the novel's plot.
Victor's lab looks a bit strange, but it goes with the birthing theme. The scenes on the ice are awesome and are really what I wanted with this movie. Sadly they are incredibly few. One of the spots that is rather distracting is Victor's childhood home. The entrance hall looks very strange, but I guess I don't know much about Swiss architecture. Also, the ship scenes at the beginning and end are passable, but nonsensical.
In the End
The film ends abruptly just like everything else. It tries to have a sympathetic end, but really just ends up with more fire.
The focus should have been split between Victor and the Monster. Instead it goes mostly to the overblown effects. Not that there's not some good stuff, mostly having to do with the creature and the aforementioned change from the novel. Unfortunately, it is faithful to its detriment. The plot doesn't flow naturally as it tries to include all the parts from the novel. Check it out if you enjoy Frankenstein.
Next time: More Hammer vampires!