Some movie named I, Frankenstein is spamming its trailers all over my TV. I know next to nothing about this film, other than the Monster is a good guy fighting bad monsters. If I was involved in this film, the tagline would have been “Fight monsters with monsters, not fire with fire because FIRE BAD!” Anyway, it felt like a good a reason as any to run back this post from 2010. It’s the basic premise for my Frankenstein reboot which would have Mary Shelley doing senton bombs in her grave. There are a few changes since I wrote the original 4 years ago.
One of the classes I teach is British Authors. One of the works covered in the class is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The first time (a few years ago) I instructed this particular class, I wanted to show the film version after we completed the reading of the original novel. I ran an internet search for a decent film version and came across Mary Shelley’s Frankestein starring Kenneth Branagh. I knew Branagh from his work in every single film version of every Shakespeare in the known universe, and also from his role as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I thought the film version had two things going for it: Shelley’s name in the title implied accuracy and Branagh’s presence cemented that credibility. I should have known better. Robert De Niro (left) played the monster.
Anyway, I played the movie for my first period class without previously screening it, and boy, was I in for a surprise. This particular movie had very little in common with the original novel. This fact was cemented in my mind when De Niro punched a hole in Helena Bonham Carter’s chest and ripped her heart out like Jim Carrey did to that chef in Dumb and Dumber. This brought a rousing cheer from my class and a barrage of “That’s not what happened in the book, right?” questions. I don’t want to ruin the rest of the film for you, on the rare chance you’ll catch it on Spike.
Since there doesn’t seem to be a real problem with people taking “creative liberties” with seminal works of literature (ex: any movie made by Marvel Studios in the past 10 years), I’ve decided to re-adapt Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein myself. I will call this film Frankenstein 2010 because it is devoid of any creativity whatsoever, so yeah, that title’s perfect. The rest of the blog will be my cast (with comparisons to those in the actual novel) and key scenes that I have re-imagined (with comparisons to those in the actual novel).
Christian Bale as Maxwell Billingsley (Victor Frankenstein). In Frankenstein, Victor is inspired to create artificial life by two main sources: the science books he read as a child and the sight of a bolt of lightning annihilating at tree. In Frankenstein 2010, Maxwell Billingsley is inspired to create artificial life by two main sources: reading the novel Frankenstein and being hit with a taser while rioting at a Slayer concert. One of the themes of the original novel is literature’s ability to inspire. Got that covered. Well, when those volts run through his body, he has visions of dying. In these visions the only way he can save himself is by caniballizing body parts from other human beings to replace his own rotting flesh. When he finally comes to, he sets out to create his monster. Unlike Shelley’s Victor, Billingsley will not go to graveyards to harvest body parts. Billingsley will stalk human beings searching for the parts he wants. He goes to the mall and sees a guy with a nice head of hair, he follows him to his car, kills him, scalps him, and takes what he needs. Christian Bale’s performance in American Psycho proved that he can play “phenomenally f*cked up” pitch perfect. Additionally, Bale’s turn in The Machinist (left) leads me to believe he can pull off Maxwell/Victor’s physical disintegration due to his work on the Monster. Also, I need a star to be the box office draw since my movie will make absolutely no sense. One of the promotional posters will actually read “Frankenstein 2010: Starring Batman.”
William Fichtner as Gregory Jameson (Robert Walton). In the original story, Robert Walton is an explorer looking for a passage from Europe to the Pacific Northwest of North America through the Arctic Circle. In Frankenstein 2010, Jameson is the captain of a ship searching for the whereabouts of a mysterious island rumored to have even more mysterious healing and electromagnetic properties. On one of his voyages near Australia, he comes across Billingsley on the open ocean, clinging to a life raft. Billingsley boards Jameson’s ship and the two become fast friends because they’re both “type A” personalities and they are both complete psychos. Jameson is actually an omnivore who eats whatever he catches in the sea and also crew members who disappoint him. While his mania and behavior appear random and impulsive at times, his single-minded pursuit of the island makes it clear that he is not completely crazy. William Fichtner is a solid character actor who always plays the same character: Mr. Intensity. Armageddon, Prison Break, The Perfect Storm (which means he’s familiar with filming on the ocean which means we don’t have to get Costner or somebody from Water World), and The Dark Knight. In truth, his work in the recent comedy Date Night sold me on him completely for this role. In Shelley’s novel, Walton is a passionate, level-headed Romantic. That’s not what I was going for. I was going for the kind of guy who would watch Tina Fey and Steve Carrell while they do the “robot” and simulate sex acts, then say with awe and disbelief, “sex robots…” like he had been completely blown away by the whole concept.
Brock Lesnar as The Monster (The Monster). Of the three narrators of the story, the Monster will most resemble the character from the novel. He will be both highly intelligent and Romantic. He will constantly attempt to befriend human beings with horrible consequences. Paul Heyman will not speak for him. I will cast these extras only if they are 5’4″ and under- to give the monster’s appearance even more of an edge. When he kills Billingsley’s family members, he will do so with over-the-top graphic violence and the F-5! F-5! F-5! What I hope is that these scenes of violence will contrast sharply with the scenes of the monster learning via observation and his invisible assistance of the De Lacey (Shepherd) family. In the book, part of the tragedy is what the monster starts his existence as and the sharp decline into the vile being he becomes. That’s what I’m going for. The kind of 180 degree turn one can find in professional wrestling. He’s going to start off as a “face,” then slowly become a “heel.” And despite my overwhelming desire to have Jim Ross narrate the monster’s story, I will not go there. I think that kind of reckless decision would derail the cinema verite I’m going for in terms of the monster’s story. I have to admit, I don’t know much about Brock Lesnar other than he was an amateur wrestler, then he was a pro-wrestler, then he was an MMA fighter, and now he’s wrestling again. I like that. I want people to have an idea of what he’s going to be like going in so that they can be completely and utterly floored when they watch him read poetry to himself and imitate the sounds of birds before stopping because he’s startled by the sound of his own voice. Sounds like an Oscar-worthy role, especially considering Michael Cole, JBL, and Jerry Lawler trip all over each other to call Lesnar “the beast incarnate” 77 times over the course of a 4-minute promo.
Rest of the cast:
Ashley Greene as Evelyn Richardson (Elizabeth Lavenza, because we need an attractive female love interest), Jay Baruchel as Mike Warthen (Henry Clerval, because just imagine Baruchel’s voice saying things to Christian Bale like “Wait… so you built a monster?” while shaking his hands frantically), and Emily Blunt as Nikki Blackstone (Justine Moritz, because I love her). We’ll set Liam Neeson as Old Man Dowling (Old Man De Lacey, because everyone knows that adding Liam Neeson to the vast adds at least two levels of prestige) with Josh Krasinski and Mandy Moore as D’Andre and Heidi Dowling (Felix and Agatha De Lacey, because they’re together in this photo and I was too lazy to find, crop, and format even just one more picutre). Sadly, the dearth of female roles in this novel precludes me from inserting more actresses that I find attractive. But we’ll make it work, I promise.
The anti-anti-climactic final confrontation between Maxwell and his monster. In the novel, Victor and his monster do not have the “winner-takes-all” battle that Shelley set the audience up for. But in my film, I will use both Wooian and Bay-esque techniques to make the final battle between the protagonist and antagonist a scene worthy of the MTV Movie Awards “Best Fight Scene.” Well have slow music as the backdrop for the epic battle scene with doves flying in the background in slow-motion (my nod to Woo). In addition, there will be things on fire falling out of the sky and crashing into the icebergs and other ice formations (a tip of the cap to Michael Bay). The actual choreography will contain bits and pieces of my favorite action sequences including, but not limited to: “bullet-time” camera work (think Matrix), double-gun back holsters and trench coats (a la Castor Troy, from Face/Off), martial arts work and wire work (in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and of course the slow-motion walk-up as both characters confront each other for the final battle (any movie made in the last 10 years). Sounds like a winner, right? All I need now are a few investors.