I reviewed this film last week and after seeing it a second time this week, what I said still stands. But given the fact that the two stars switch the lead roles of Master and Monster from one performance to the next, I went back to Chicago’s Music Box this week and watched Danny Boyle’s production again with Johnny Lee Miller playing the role of the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor. In last week’s review, I commented on how it would be hard to beat Cumberbatch’s inspired performance as Frankenstein’s Monster. Here’s what I thought of my second sitting through DANNY BOYLE’S FRANKENSTEIN.
For the most part, my review from last week’s column remains the same. This is by far the most entertaining and most fleshed out version of Mary Shelley’s classic ever in my book. Everything from stage production, to the script, to the direction, to the effects were top notch. Check out last week’s review for a full review of everything else.
What I wanted to focus on here was the performance of Johnny Lee Miller as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein. Last week, I said that Cumberbatch’s Creature was going to be hard to beat. After sitting through the play again, I have to say that I probably preferred Cumberbatch’s Creature over Miller’s performance of the same role, but that doesn’t mean Miller’s Creature is anything to sneeze at.
While Cumberbatch moved his monster performance around as if he were a palsied stroke victim (he says he based his performance on studies he made in stroke units in hospitals in the pre-movie teaser), Miller excels at making the Creature more like a large child. Miller may drool and spit a bit more than Cumberbatch’s Creature, but he also displays a lot of the childish effortlessness one often sees in newborns and toddlers. The difference here is subtle. Both actors to a fantastic job and honestly it’s hard to pick the one that works better, but to me, Cumberbatch’s facial and head shape as well as his lanky frame represent the monster in a more horrific way than the more chiseled good looks of Miller in the role wearing fright makeup. On the flip side, Cumberbatch is quite good as Victor, but again, Miller looks more the part of the dashing mad scientist. In the end, I think I preferred the performance I saw last week over this week’s with Miller as Creature and Cumberbatch as Victor.
Either way, despite who is playing who, be it Cumberbatch as the Creature or vice versa, anyone able to check out this excellent performance should consider themselves lucky. There’s one more showing at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, Ilinois tomorrow (May 7th) at 2:00, then it moves on to the next town. If DANNY BOYLE’S FRANKENSTEIN comes near your town, you should make a point to go see this truly iconic take on a classic tale.