Although having mixed feelings about Kenneth Branagh's abilities as a film director, I had not seen a film about Frankenstein before and figured that this might be a decent place to start.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein feels more like a Shakespearian film than a horror film. I can't say that I'm too surprised because Kenneth Branagh is the director of it, but the fact is that he puts so much emphasis on all the tragedy in the story that he neglects to make the film a genuine horror film. Kenneth Branagh forgets to put enough emphasis on the twisted horror elements of the story and instead makes it into a melodramatic costume drama which is constantly shifting in tone and direction. Kenneth Branagh's direction on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein captures the drama of the story but not the horror, and he makes it a rather scattered affair in the end. He does manage to capture a lot of the heart of the source material and dramatise it well, but within his limited capabilities as a film director there is only so far he can go and ends up keeping Mary Shelley's Frankenstein within those constraints, making it a shakespearian costume drama in lieu of a horror film. Fans of Kenneth Branagh's works may enjoy Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but viewers who are expecting an honest adaptation of all the horror that made the source material relevant can look elsewhere. At least he manages to maintain an intelligent and faithful script in his adaptation which gives a lot of powerful dialogue to the cast.
And thankfully enough, the quality of the visual style that Kenneth Branagh gives to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is firm.
The cinematography in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an issue. Most of the time, things either follow a conventional route which zoom up on a lot of things unnecessarily, but at the more memorable moments of the film, it feels like Roger Pratt decided to combine the techniques of tracking shots with dutch angles, and it makes everything look weird. The camera spends too much time zooming in and zooming out in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and makes the visual experience rather weird. So the cinematography is a problem because it is not artistic and is more deluded in what it is actually doing because it fails to capture the best aspects of everything that is happening. It gets better in the second half, but still, there are some cinematography issues in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which lower the effect of the visual experience. But on the plus side it does prove to do a powerful job of capturing all the scenery well which is great because the scenery in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is very versatile and has a lot of colour to it without transcending the feel of a world that is only good and evil, black and white. The colour in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is rather monochromatic at times, and it is good because it keeps things dry and symbolic.
The other thing that the cinematography captures is a magnificent setting. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein feels truly like it takes place during the timeframe of its setting. I mean, the production design looks very old-style and the costumes of the characters reinforce that which makes the general feel of the film all the more better. Visaully, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is terrific, and the design of everything and The Creation is magnificent. Everything in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein looks terrific, so the budget of the film went to the right places and gave it a memorable visual style, and it is certainly a better costume drama than many others out there. The musical score also makes it a powerful experience by enhancing the atmosphere.
And the cast of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein turn in a powerful effort as well.
Kenneth Branagh's performance as Victor Frankenstein is seriously great. The Academy Award nominated Shakespearian actor plays out the role of Victor Frankenstein with his Shakespearian acting skills and manages to get the part very well. He really puts a lot of power into his performance to emphasise the tragedy of everything, and the final result is a powerful one. Kenneth Branagh puts all of his knowledge of Shakespearian acting into his performance as Victor Frankenstein and manages to grip the part with a lot of power. Kenneth Branagh overshadows his own role as director of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with his performance as the lead actor, and it makes up for his inability to handle the material too well.
Robert De Niro is great as The Creation. While some of the script lines are not the best for building the character up, The Creation is consistently powerful as a character because his appearance is excellent and creates an interesting new take on the iconic character, and Robert De Niro breathes a spectacular sort of darkness into the part. It is not perfect, nor is it one of his best roles because admittedly it has some moments of being dull, but all in all he captures the sadistic dark spirit of the character perfectly and turns in an entertaining performance with some Shakespearian elements of his own which he gets right. Robert De Niro is grand in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
Helena Bonham Carter is also lovely in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein because of the fact that her natural beauty and charm make her easily appealing while her chemistry with Kenneth Branagh feels genuine in its passion. She projects a lot of emotional power into her role and steps into the physical stature of her very well. Helena Bonham Carter makes a great effort in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and you could expect noting less from her.
John Cleese is also great to see in a small dramatic role because he sinks into the part very well and speaks his words with a passion. It is great to see him branching out from the comedic roles that made him famous. Tom Hulce also has a powerful supporting part.
So although Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is undone by Kenneth Branagh's inability to make the story anything more than a glamourous self-indulgent Shakespearian tale, his performance is great as is the rest of the cast's and the visual style he applies to the film is terrific.