Reviewed by: Martin Drury

Underneath the billowing blackness and gothic lightening, underneath the angst of a scientist longing to seek out and defeat death in all its forms, lies a tune from ancient times which will send a shiver scurrying up your spine on rodent's feet.

The musical incantation has become garbled over time. But we believe it went something like this: "When, oh when, will I be famous? I can't answer that. I can't answer that." Luke Goss, formerly of the band Bros, appears in this retelling of Shelley's classic tale of the macabre as the monster Frankenstein creates in his haste to play God. Goss is melodramatic throughout in his interpretation of Frankenstein's monster and, for a character supposedly composed of decaying tissue, this particular creature from the depths of Hell appears very fond of over-the-top hand gestures and long, drawn out conversations about emotions and the nature of morality.

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The Monster is considerably taller than Frankenstein. Yet, the Monster does not appear to have been composed of different body parts. So, one has no other option but to assume that Victor managed to plunder the graves of the eight-foot-tall village's finest basketball players. Despite dressing up in a curtain and having a bit of face-paint on his brow to make him look scary in the right light, Goss remains the best actor in this film.

Alec Newman is wooden to the extreme as Victor Frankenstein. His face displays a limited emotional range and, at times, his portrayal of the maverick scientist is boring. It is impossible for the audience to empathise with Victor. Once again, Hallmark has decided to rape a good story and replace the essence which they removed with a nauseating romance. It is possible to gain from this interpretation of Frankenstein, that Mary Shelley may simply have been Jane Austen in disguise.

Nicole Lewis plays Elizabeth as if she were a perpetual teenager. Lewis' interpretation does not even come close to that of Helen Bonham-Carter's in Kenneth Brannagh's 1994 adaptation. Lewis's Elizabeth could walk out into the night and be abducted by aliens and the audience wouldn't flinch.

Elizabeth's love for Victor, meanwhile, appears to have been modelled on the sentiments of the Hallmark Valentine's Day cards. It's cute, nauseating and unbelievable. Everybody else is in a horror story. Lewis's Elizabeth is in The Little House on the Prairie.

The fundamental problem is that, from the start, you cannot take this retelling seriously. All of the characters are clean, neat and tidy beyond the capabilities of the story's epoch and William Hurt's German accent appears derived from eighties sitcom 'Allo 'Allo. Plus, Captain Walton - the man whose ship is stranded on the ice long enough to provide a haven of sanctuary for Victor Frankenstein - looks like Captain Birdseye.

Mary Shelley and her coterie sat in the house on the shores of Lake Geneva on a day when the rain poured. To cut the boredom off at the bud, the writers decided to pen a ghost story to see who could scare the others the most. Shelley's ghost story offered the blending of the occult with the real, the scary scientific. She brought religion into the equation and challenged men's placid relationship with God. What Mary Shelley did not do was write an awful romance story. That honour fell to Kruger in this screenplay. Frankenstein 2004 is the embodiment of what happens when people who want to tell their own story rob a classic from its tomb.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2005
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Melodramatic retelling of Mary Shelley's novel.
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Director: Kevin Connor

Writer: Mark Kruger, based on the book by Mary Shelley

Starring: Luke Goss, Alec Newman, William Hurt, Julie Delpy, Nicole Lewis, Monika Hilmerova, Donald Sutherland, William Hurt

Year: 2004

Runtime: 248 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Slovakia/USA


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