Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Victor Frankenstein

Year 8, Day  279 - 10/5/16 - Movie #2,461

BEFORE:  Today was my set-up day for the New York Comic-Con, and it's a day I usually think about karma.  If I did my paperwork properly, if I packed my boxes correctly, if I thought hard enough about what merchandise will sell, then my booth will be successful. My actions have a direct effect on an outcome, good or bad, sure I realize this hinges on superstition, because things can always go wrong, no matter how prepared you are, and things can also go right if you fail to plan. (I guess...)

But I've also dabbled with creative visualization, this is a technique where you tell the universe the outcome you would like, and this helps to focus efforts, whether individual or collective, to bring about the desired result.  I told the universe that I still needed to find a monitor stand for the booth, and also an additional small table for my boss's wife, who wants to sell some of her own art for the booth.  For the TV stand I thought about all of the items in my house, surely there must be an expendable piece of furniture I could bring (though in past years I've found things to put a TV on just by dumpster-diving).  And I looked around and settled on a large picnic cooler - lightweight but sturdy, easily portable, and if it were to get stolen or lost at the con, easily replaceable.  One down.

Then on the way in to work today, as I walked down the block where that nut planted a pressure-cooker bomb in a piece of luggage, I passed what looked like a folding table, about two feet across, but sort of resembling a metal briefcase, just sitting on the sidewalk, as if someone had thrown it away.  I dropped off my cooler and satchel upstairs and came back down to the sidewalk, and it was still there, with no owner around.  Sure enough, it was a folding table, exactly what I needed, and the universe provided it for me.     

With the aid of two co-workers, all of our equipment and merchandise into the convention center, and we finished just at 3 pm, which is when the convention sponsors start pouring free beer in the lobby, for anyone working hard setting up their booth who wants to take a little break.  So I got a free table, and two free beers (I could have had more, but I wanted to be fair to others...) and karmically, I felt I was on the right track for a good convention.  I put in the hard work, and I got a reward. 

This linking's easy, Charles Dance carries over from "Dracula Untold", where he played the older vampire, the spiritual "father" to Dracula.  Tonight he's the elder Frankenstein, father of Victor.  I did re-watch "Young Frankenstein" about a week ago, I hope that doesn't influence tonight's judging.

THE PLOT:  Told from Igor's perspective, we see the troubled young assistant's dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man - and the legend - we know today.

AFTER: The novel "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley is really all about karma, even as it questions the process of life and death and rebirth.  Victor puts in the hard work, trying to re-animate dead flesh, but at the same time, he's trying to subvert the natural order.  Would life be more important without death, or perhaps meaningless?  By what right does something that died deserve to come back? 

"Dracula Untold" re-cast the vampire as an action hero, and this film essentially does the same for Victor Frankenstein.  And last night we found out that maybe Dracula wasn't such an evil guy, tonight we find out that Igor wasn't even really a hunchback!  And he wasn't so dumb and subservient, he was really a medical genius, perhaps even smarter than the notorious doctor.  That's revisionist history for you, sure, let's just reboot the novel and change everything around.  

It turns out here that the hunch on Igor's back was just a really big zit.  God, I wish I were kidding about that.  And then once it's gone, Victor gives him a back brace so his body can re-train itself to walk properly upright.  I mean, I see WHY this was changed, because the police were looking for a man with a hump who escaped from the circus - but it still feels like a narrative cheat. 

But if the role of Igor got expanded, the role of the monster really, really downplayed.   The monster is only seen briefly, and regarded as merely another failed experiment that needs to be put down.  Of course, this is a different ending from the one in the book, where the "good" doctor had to chase his creation across the arctic tundra, in the book's famous framing sequence, which is totally abandoned here.  And it gets replaced with Igor pining over a beautiful circus performer, a sub-plot which seems like it has its origin in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".  (Igor's not in the original novel at all, by the way, I think he was more of a convention from the early Hollywood films.) 

And that's the inherent problem with reboots.  What pieces of the original novel (or film, or TV show) get saved?  And which ones get changed, and who makes those decisions?  Because if you stick too close to the original source material, then why are you making a new version?  And if you go too far in various other directions, then can it really be called by the same name, is it really the same story?  

Like, the main point of the novel "Frankenstein" was to posit the return to life of dead flesh, and then explore that creature that resulted.  Does it think, does it feel, is it truly alive?  And the problem here is that "Victor Frankenstein" not only doesn't answer those questions, it spends so much time on other things that it never gets around to even asking them.  And in that sense, it fails to capture the essence of the original Shelley novel, where the monster walked around and talked, and had a sense of reason.  I mean, isn't the re-animation of a man made of dead parts the main point of the story? 

Note that I just say "the monster" - when you say "Frankenstein", you should really be referring to the DOCTOR, not the monster.  In the Shelley novel the monster was UN-NAMED, only calling him "Fiend" or "Demon", though I think the doctor wanted to call him "Adam" because he was the first re-created man.  The subtitle of the book is "The Modern Prometheus", which compares the DOCTOR to the character from mythology that gave fire to humans.  (This film compounds the confusion by calling the monster "Prometheus", and that's wrong wrong WRONG also.) Please, PLEASE do not call the monster "Frankenstein", people!  It's just not his name!  Sorry, pet peeve of mine.  

Off to New York Comic-Con tomorrow, for real.  Back to movies on Monday.

Also starring James McAvoy (last seen in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), Daniel Radcliffe (last seen in "Trainwreck"), Jessica Brown Findlay (last seen in "Winter's Tale"), Andrew Scott (last seen in "Spectre"), Freddie Fox (last seen in "The Three Musketeers (2011)), Daniel Mays (last heard in "The Adventures of Tintin"), Bronson Webb, Callum Turner, Mark Gatiss (last seen in "Match Point"), Spencer Wilding, Alistair Petrie. 

RATING: 5 out of 10 hidden tunnels

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