Kenneth Branagh’s bold, brash, semi-operatic love letter to Shelley’s Gothic horror is a thoroughly 90’s retelling of Frankenstein. A crazed, monologue-ridden and dramatically orchestrated cinematic tour-de-force, this hugely enjoyable example of schlock cinema resembled perhaps as much about the decade it was made in as it did the spirit of Shelley herself.
Frosted and furred in the Arctic, a dying Viktor Frankenstein (Branagh) shares a cautionary tale of gruesome terror with a sea captain. Taking us back to his carefree youth, he then tells of a personal loss that twisted the then student doctor's soul. Becoming hell-bent on the reanimation of the dead, he sacrifices everything to that end, creating a new life that never should have been wrought. Realising how destructive his experiments have become, he abandons the creature (Robert De Niro) in an attempt to live a normal life with his fiance (Helena Bonham Carter). But when the creature returns to seek out Viktor, he demands one of two things: a bride or revenge.
This visceral, energetic and entertaining retelling of Branagh's story is the film adaptation that preserves most of Shelley's novel’s shape and content, albeit in a way which exploits science, eroticism and brutality in ways that she might never have imagined.