Frankenstein which many have confused with the far more high-profile period-set Victor Frankenstein (2015) with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe that came out the same year is one of several attempts that have been made to modernise Mary Shelleys novel. Other examples can be found in the likes of Dr Franken (tv movie, 1981), Frankensteins Baby (tv movie, 1990), Frankenstein 2000 (1992), Mr. Stitch (1995), the Dean Koontz Frankenstein (tv movie, 2004), Frankenstein Reborn (2005), Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare (2006), Frankenstein (tv mini-series, 2007) and Closer to God (2014).
Bernard Roses treatment offers up a very different Frankenstein film than anything we are used to. For one, there is nothing to do with creating patchwork bodies and resurrecting creatures from the dead, rather it appears that Frankenstein is building his creatures from scratch using a giant 3D printer. For once, even though he gives his name to the films title, Frankenstein is a peripheral character and the major sections he would be expected to be in are taken up by Elizabeth (Carrie-Anne Moss), traditionally Frankensteins fiancee, who now becomes his lab assistant/live-in girlfriend and a mother figure that the creature fixates on.
This also ends up being a modernised Frankenstein that seeks to find contemporary equivalents of various elements from the book and films. Traditionally, the creature is referred to as The Monster but here takes the name Monster for itself after being called such by the mob at the lakeside. It gets the familiar scar across its forehead as a result of one of the autopsy doctors trying to cut it open with a buzzsaw. There is a replication of the scene from Frankenstein (1931) where Boris Karloff is playing with the little girl and innocently tosses her into the water. The most radical reinvention is the scene from the book later incarnated in slightly different form by O.P. Heggie in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) where the monster hides in the woodshed of a cabin in the woods and learns to speak by listening to a blind man. Here the blind man becomes a blind, homeless blues guitarist (Tony Todd from Bernard Roses Candyman) who befriends the monster. Rose also includes readings of sections from Mary Shelleys book in voiceover on the soundtrack.
The film has a great opening all told in terms of ragged emotional scenes wherein the creature (Xavier Samuel) comes to life and is like a newborn child, quickly bonding to Carrie-Anne Moss, screaming at the intrusive pain of injections, having to learn things like eating, drinking and walking for the first time. What we have is the Frankenstein story deconstructed and retold in terms of the creatures raw and fearful discovery of the world. This is a fascinating new take that moves the film closer to something like The Mind of Mr. Soames (1969), which featured Terence Stamp as an adult man waking to consciousness for the first time with the mind of a newborn infant, rather than any traditional Frankenstein film. Indeed, the only other film that dealt with the creatures awakening and confusion about the world around it as such as primal experience was the Danny Boyle stage version of Frankenstein (2011).