Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” isn’t a story anyone cares to be faithful to. That ship sailed at least 80 years ago when Boris Karloff and James Whale gave us the most enduring image of the monster. Still, it’s really amazing to consider the staying power of a story that was written almost exactly two centuries ago. The dozens of interpretations and direct adaptations are testament both to the concept and the execution capturing our imaginations so thoroughly.
Fox is hoping that their incarnation will be a hit, and it’s clear from the trailer what formula they’re following.
The buddy comedy, action elements, keen one-liners and Victorian England setting are all reminiscent of Warner Bros.’ 2009 take on Sherlock Holmes that led to a two-off franchise.
There’s also the public domain nature of both “Frankenstein” and “Sherlock Holmes,” as well as the clever title rebranding of simply using a first and last name to mark both the character and the potential franchise.
Granted, the Sherlock Holmes trailer plays up the comedy more, but they both share elements of the occult, keen lines about changing a world (that’s presented to us as antique), and two daring heroes prepared to buckle the swash out of every enemy.
Victor Frankenstein even has another Holmesian connection: Andrew Scott (who plays Moriarty) and Mark Gatiss (the executive producer who plays Mycroft) in BBC’s take on the character. That’s just trivia; they’re in a different universe.
Obviously the similarities are surface level, but there are a lot of them. Fox has found its open source franchise by Sherlocking Frankenstein.
Which, frankly, is a really smart idea even if it’s shrink-wrapped and broadened beyond recognition for general consumption. Both Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey, Jr. grossed half a billion dollars, and I imagine that Fox is hoping for the same result here, so why would it matter that they’ve converted the angsty ball of guilt-fueled terror that is Victor Frankenstein into a rambling adventurer looking for kicks? Let alone whatever they’ve done to Igor. Doing a straightforward adaptation would be unnecessary, so maybe there is something to be gained by transforming the characters.
So, yes, James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are right when they say at the introduction of the trailer that this is a twist on Frankenstein we’ve never seen before. It’s just that he’s not the first character to be twisted this way.