About writing. And reading. And being published. Or not published. On working on being published. Tangents into the pop culture world to come. Especially about movies. And comic books. And movies from comic books.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein
1. The focus was on the creation, something that I'm not sure has been done since Mary Shelley wrote the book.
2. The production would feature two actors (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, both of whom currently play Sherlock Holmes in separate television series) in the roles of the doctor and his creation who would switch off playing the two roles from performance to performance.
Fortunately, the National Theater has National Theater Live who film the performances for worldwide showings. Also, fortunately, one of the local theaters here (one that tends toward independent films) did special screenings of the production. Unfortunately, though, I was only able to see one of the variations, the one with Cumberbatch as the monster.
There were some clips before the "movie" started about the making of the production, and Cumberbatch talked about his method for learning how to move as the monster. He studied the movements of people who are in physical therapy to re-learn how to use their bodies after a stroke or accident. He was pretty impressive. He had this jerky, twitchy way of moving around, even after he "learned" how to move, that made it clear he wasn't quite in control of his body. Or, well, anything.
Overall, it was an excellent production; however, there were a few things I had issues with.
The play opens with the creature being "born." There's a long sequence of him learning to move his body around which culminates in the doctor coming in and freaking out to find his creation alive. He abandons the creature to the world. Then there's a long sequence of the monster discovering grass and the sun and rain and... people. People who persecute him for his ugliness. All of this is fascinating, especially Cumberbatch's depiction of the monster, BUT... It just went on for too long. The floundering around on the stage learning how to stand and walk took something like 15-20 minutes then another 15 to 20 minutes of the creature doing things like eating grass until he's finally chased away by a mob. So, while Cumberbatch's performance was impressive during this section, it was too much. His performance of the monster was impressive throughout the play and, once the play got into the story, it was good, too.
However, I was a bit underwhelmed by Jonny Lee Miller. He didn't really seem a "mad genius" or like someone playing God or anything at all like how I would think of Victor Frankenstein. Actually, he seemed much more like a kid throwing rocks through the windows of an abandoned house or pulling the legs off of a spider, doing it because he could but without much interest. I've heard that he was better as the creation, but that's just what I've heard; I can't verify that, because I didn't see that version.
I was also not impressed by the performance of George Harris (Shacklebolt in Harry Potter), who played Victor's father. He came off as rather flat to me, no real emotion in what he was acting. The people I saw it with agreed with me, but they saw the other variation of the play, also, and said he was much better as Victor's father when Cumberbatch was playing Victor. So, maybe, he was having an off night or, maybe, the synergy between Harris and Cumberbatch was better than it was with Miller.
As I said, overall it was an excellent production, and I would really like to see it from the other perspective with Cumberbatch as Victor. It looks like it might get a DVD release, so, hopefully, I will get the chance. If there happens to be a showing of this near you, I would highly recommend it, if nothing else, just for the chance to see the "live" performance.
Posted by Andrew Leon at 12:00 AM
Labels: Benedict Cumberbatch, Danny Boyle, Frankenstein, George Harris, Harry Potter, Jonny Lee Miller, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Mary Shelley, National Theatre Live, Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, Victor Frankenstein
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Interesting that they switched roles. First time I'd heard of the production, so I'll look for it when it hits DVD.ReplyDelete
Alex: Yeah, I'm looking for the DVD, too. I want to see the other side of the show.Delete
That's kind of an interesting take on Dr Frankenstein; doing it just because he could. It's like Heath Ledger's Joker: no grand plan, just someone who's insane. It puts a different spin on the story, which I've always taken as a cautionary tale on man's hubris. But done this way, it might just be more along the lines of how casually we treat scientific advancements -- not so much pride as disinterest.ReplyDelete
Briane: Unfortunately, I think the script leans more to the arrogance side of things. Or maybe Miller was just manic in the wrong places. I don't know.Delete
Sounds interesting. I like Cumberpatch and I can see him pulling off either monster or doctor. I'd like to see both versions.ReplyDelete
Hart: Me, too! I really want to see him as the doctor, now.Delete
I'd be curious to see this. Either version. I just love how much Cumberbatch gets into his roles. Like with Smaug, how he didn't HAVE to wear motion capture balls and crawl around like a dragon. He just wanted to do that. And it ended up making Smaug look even more realistic.ReplyDelete
Also, as I'm warning everyone else in the blogosphere, it seems like Google rolled out auto captchas today (I think?) as every blog with a popout comment box, including this one, now has captcha asking me to prove that I'm not a robot.
But I passed the Turing test, so I'm gonna get by this beeyotch anyway.
Bryan: I just wish he wasn't playing Smaug at all, at this point. Not that he didn't do a great job as the voice of Smaug, but they're such horrible movies.Delete
Yep, looks like captcha's gone. I can now put comments down without the dreaded "type these blurry numbers" bot hounding me. So it's truly something that you can't change when you have a popout comment system? There's no setting? WTF, Google?Delete
And hey, as long as he's not playing "Austin the Aston Martin" in Cars Part 7: Lightning McQueen Goes To Jolly Ol' England you won't hear me complaining about his role choices.
No, there's no option to turn that off. Maybe they forgot...? Nah...Delete
This sounds good. Cumberbatch is an amazing actor.ReplyDelete
Lady Lilith: He might be. I'm not sure, yet. He's at least very good.ReplyDelete
If I remember the book correctly, going on too long seems pretty accurate.ReplyDelete
I don't remember it being too long in the book, but it has been a long time since I read it.Delete
I don't like Frankenstein (the book). I doubt if I'd like a movie version other than Young Frankenstein.ReplyDelete
Janie: Ah, well, Young Frankenstein definitely has its selling points, too.Delete
Totally off topic but I blame you - you brought up 28 Days Later and that's one of my favorite movies. It's just done so well. Like they didn't care if it was a big Hollywood hit, but made it more for themselves with the hope that others would like the spin they took with it as much as they did. Makes me wonder if that was the approach with this movie too. What do you think?ReplyDelete
Elsie: I haven't seen it, so I can't make a comparison.Delete
The only movie I've ever seen that seemed like they made because it was fun to do and without any real care as to whether anyone else watched it was 'This Is the End.'
Not many movie versions have been done well. I did like his portrayal in Van Helsing and I Frankenstein though.ReplyDelete
dolorah: I haven't seen 'I, Frankenstein,' yet, but, if you're talking about the 'Van Helsing' with Hugh Jackman, I thought that was one of the worst movies ever.Delete
I hope this comes out on DVD! It sounds like a fascinating performance. (Nicole read Frankenstein this year [I admit I have not] and said the original is nothing like any of the stories popular culture is familiar with, and was actually quite boring, so ... there's that...)ReplyDelete
Alex H: I read it back when I was in high school and really loved it. I should maybe read it again, but I didn't find any of it boring at the time. I would say that I found it fascinating.Delete