Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Review: (Dean Koontz's) Frankenstein

I've been on a Frankenstein kick lately and finally got around to seeing the made-for-TV movie that Dean Koontz helped create and then disassociated himself from. Koontz decided to publish his version as a book series instead, which made me really curious about how bad the TV version could be.

Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I imagined. I like the idea of casting two comedic actors (Parker Posey and Adam Goldberg) as the detectives on the trail of a serial killer. It freshens up the characters who'd have otherwise been cookie-cutter. Nice use of Michael Madsen too, who plays what you think is the exact same character he always plays, but then turns out to be someone completely different. It's kind of the equivalent of casting Sean Bean in a role where he doesn't turn out to be a traitorous villain halfway through the movie, or casting Brian Dennehy in a role where he turns out to be a really nice guy.

I don't know what Koontz's problems were with the movie (I've got -- but haven't yet read -- the first book in his series), but one nitpick I have with it is that they don't have the guts to call the mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein. Instead, they give him the lame name Dr. Helios and claim that he's the inspiration for Mary Shelley's novel. I guess that's probably because Frankenstein dies at the end of the novel, but some retroactive tweaking of Shelley's version of events could have fixed that. Oh, well.

The doctor's motivation was pretty cool. He's been making creatures for the last couple of hundred years and is a perfectionist. He doesn't think of his creations as human, so he simply discards previous versions on his quest for the perfect model. When one of those previous versions starts a killing spree, that gets Posey and Goldberg involved. Eventually the doctor's first creation (the inspiration for Frankenstein's monster) shows up and helps the detectives track down the killer.

As a serial killer movie, it ain't half bad. As a Frankenstein movie, I'd rather have seen a more direct connection to Shelley's book, like I said, and the Monster was too good looking (like in the Hallmark adaptation, but with big scars instead of a skin condition), but still... not a bad movie. It's got me excited to read Koontz's books to see what he does differently.


Anonymous said...

I agree, this movie wasn't bad. Wasn't great, either, but certainly not the train wreck you'd expect to see, given Koontz having his name taken off of it *completely.*

And yet the book is very close to it, character names and all. Except that the book is awesome. I wish Book Three would come out already.

I remember how this TV movie was originally announced as "Dean Koontz's Frankenstein," was going to be produced by Martin Scorsese and was going to be a pilot for a series. That would've been something to see.

Michael May said...

I thought I'd imagined that there'd once been plans to turn it into a series. I'm not sure I ever knew that Scorsese had been attached. That actually explains things a little bit. Given the names of the people involved, it should've been great, not just merely "not bad."

So, does the first book cover the whole movie, and the next two continue the story?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Scorsese dropped out when Koontz did. The IMDB says he subsequently returned, but I never saw his name on the credits.

I saw the movie quite a bit before I read the book, so my memory may be a tad iffy, but yes, the first one was essentially Koontz's vision of what ended up as USA's movie, and Books Two and Three are direct continuations of the story.


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