Frankenstein

FRANKENSTEIN. 2004

Director: Marcus Nispel

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



It is two centuries after the events of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. The monster still walks the world, pursuing the mad scientist who has used his technology to extend his own life & to build a secret race he hopes will one day supplant humanity.

FrankensteinVictor Helios obviously thinks he is God, & functions both as father figure & wrathful destroyer of those super-beings he has created. He is aiming at the creation of a perfect master race & is quite obviously a precursor-nazi in his goals. Casting German "nazi specialist" actor Thomas Kretschmann as the mad scientist magnifies the Joseph Mengele qualities of his character.

His penultimate creation is his own wife, but she has an unexpected emotional fragility & falls short of Helios's ideal of aesthetic perfection, for she needs constant correction in everything from how to wear make-up without looking like a slut, to how to do proper flower arrangement. She tiptoes around pathetically insecure as Helios emotionally abuses her.

She's essentially a nurd in a perfect beauty's body, & rather than letting her go to live her own life, Helios kills her outright before building an improved duplicate model who from day one can dance like a prima ballerina & is the doctor's emotional equal (or perhaps emotionless equal). Ivana Milicevic in this double-role brilliantly creates two distinct portraits.

Being closer to his narcisistic ideal of perfection, the new Mrs. Helios is potentially a danger even to Helios, though he is too self-centered to notice. This plotline unfortunately is never fulfilled within the movie, but is the first of many loose ends.

The first monster, Deucalion, is played by French actor Vincent Perez, who even scarred is a timelessly beautiful presence who strides boldly in a shadowy zone between gorgeous heroism & angst-crippled horror. He achieves an unsteady partnership with a police detective (Parker Posey self-consciously imitating a young Jane Fonda) to track down & stop a serial killer known as "the surgeon" who is one of Dr. Helios's powerful creations gone psychotic.

The psychotic monster played by Michael Madsen provides a spectacular performance. Helios's creations are not supposed to be fertile, but the psychokiller Surgeon has become spontaneously pregnant. This element of the story could've failed big-time -- a pregnant Michael Madsen psycho Frankenstein monster would most easily be played for kitschy absurdity. But Madsen is perhaps the first "pregnant man" of cinema who is convicing, surrealistically credible, & when he butches it up viciously declaring the baby to be "something that is mine!" there is a scary brutal machismo in his male-motherhood. His is the film's finest & most complex performance.

This modern-day restyling of the Frankenstein legend is exceptionally well done. The casting is perfect; acting throughout is top-form; the on-location settings around New Orleans have an authentic beauty of decay that lends to the Romanticism of the piece. The cinematography & lighting is moody, even stunning. It is very hard to tell it is a telefilm, as it has the look of a well-budgeted theatrical release.

The only flaw with this elegant emotionally credible & highly atmospheric film is the vast number of loose plot threads. There is a great deal going on in the film that never resolves into more than a cliffhanger. We never find out anything about the serial killer's infant except that it's alive & out there somewhere in the world crawling around. We never find out what Helios's improved but sinister newly created wife is up to sneaking around & glowering at her meglamaniac husband whenever his back is turned. We never see the inevitable clash between the first monster Deucalion & its father-creator Helios. We never learn why Helios has made his master race sterile or what he thinks of one of them having procreated.

We get one "complete" story about the psychotic monster played by Masden finally hunted down & killed. But the rest was seemingly left for sequels. For as it turns out, this was a pilot-film for an intended series to be produced by Martin Scorsese, so we never will find out how it all works out, & too damned bad, as this part of the incomplete saga was awfully well done.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]