Francis Ford Coppola, Kenneth Branagh
In one, an infamous and immortal vampire seduces and kidnaps a young woman while being pursued by stake-wielding hunters.
In the other, an obsessed, genius doctor creates a monster from dead body parts, only to discover firsthand the tragic consequences of playing God.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA:
Francis Ford Coppola put his cinematic stamp on Stoker’s story, and in the process created a visually fresh and chilling thriller, as well as something that harkened back to the old style of cinema. His version of the legendary bloodsucker is drastically different from any of the previous incarnations. By sticking to the myth of Dracula and showing how he became a literal monster, Coppola offers the audience a noble villain they can actually identify with, while at the same time be completely terrified of.
A lot of the titular character’s success is due to Gary Oldman’s awesome performance. His Dracula manages to be slick, suave and scary, seamlessly making the transition from romantic young warrior to ghastly old demon (gracefully aided by good makeup). Anthony Hopkins is unsurprisingly solid as Van Helsing, and whoever cast Tom Waits as Renfield deserves an Oscar and a congratulatory reach-around. The only dim parts in an otherwise shining cast are the two youngest players, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder. Reeves isn’t bad as Jonathan Harker, he’s just woefully miscast. (Please keep Theodore Logan in modern times!) Winona Ryder usually doesn’t suck, but here her laughably bad accent really hurts the film’s gothic romance.
Aside from that DRACULA has a lot going for it: a great score, some actual frightening scenes, plenty of wanton sexuality, and a surprising amount of gore. Oh, did I mention there’s also a naked Monica Bellucci?
4 out of 5 stars
MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN:
Kenneth Branagh took some time off from kissing Shakespeare’s zombified ass to direct this faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s timeless novel. While it may seem weird that the Monster not only talks, but eloquently waxes poetic about the nature of his tragic existence, that’s where the film, like the book, excels. The 1994 version isn’t just a movie about a monster menacing the populace (although there is plenty of vengeful terrorizing), but instead offers some cinematic commentary on the psychology of humanity, nature versus nurture, and the dangers of science. To pull off such heavy- handed material, Branagh knew he needed a top notch actor, so he cast the man himself, Robert DeNiro. DeNiro’s Frankenstein monster doesn’t top Karloff’s iconic portrayal, but his Creature does bring a tragic pity to the role that makes the title character unique and emotionally engaging.
Unfortunately, all that philosophical exposition doesn’t necessarily make for exciting cinema, so Branagh made some changes to the details of the book, a couple of which turn what should be a terrifying and heartbreaking tale in to a laughable farce. Parts of the romance and tragedy are exceedingly melodramatic; it takes way too long before we even get to see the Monster; the film is ridiculously self-indulgent and easily could’ve used another round of editing. And for some unknown reason, Branagh likes to walk around without a shirt on.
All in all, it’s not a terrible movie, and I’m happy someone finally paid the book some respect, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
3 out of 5 stars
FRANKENSTEIN is just as empty, with trailers for some DeNiro and Branagh movies being the only bonus materials.
This is just sad.