Movie Renditions of Books: Yay Or Nay?

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Image: Kyle Baker

Let’s face it—there was once a time when we read a book and fangirl’d hard, waiting for the movie version to come out for Harry Potter, Twilight, or even books geared toward an older audience like Silver Linings Playbook or The Room. After watching the movie we get flabbergasted by the simple fact that Jacob Black was more of an ass in the books and the movie made him a saint with a six pack.  Likewise, there are movies like My Sister’s Keeper where the ending of it is, spoiler alert, the complete opposite of the book.

For the classical novels, there are cases where there are multiple movies portraying one single book: The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, and Frankenstein, for example. But, with all the options, do we really have the time to watch every single one? If you’re like us and the answer’s no, then let us prioritize your go-to movie list—this time, specifically, your go-to Frankenstein movie list.

Victor Frankenstein was the most recent interpretation of one of the most well-known stories. First off, this may prove—dare I say shocking—but Frankenstein’s not the monster in Shelley’s book; it’s the guy who created him. Now, the next time you’re on a date, casually slide that fact into conversation and you’ll be sure to impress. Trust me.

Anyways, back to that Victor version. Victor Frankenstein gives a side of the story of Igor that is neither normally told nor talked about  in Shelley’s book at all. Igor, in fact, is a character made up in a play written by someone completely different (Date Fact #2 you can use).  Played by Daniel Radcliffe, Igor is someone who is shunned for having a hunchback. He works at a circus in the beginning of the movie for obvious reasons, but he is also a doctor who helps other circus employees if they get injured. He later gets recruited by Victor Frankenstein because they both have an interest in anatomy.

The movie goes on to become a love story. Should we be surprised? They both construct a monster and shortly after there is a major fight-to-the-death scene since the monster goes on a rampage and Igor and Frankenstein help each other kill the monster.

Does Igor get the girl? Hell yes.

But what about the monster? Hell no. 

So why doesn’t the monster have a happy ending? Watch and decide, my loves.

Let’s compare this to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The movie begins with a ship in the Arctic region searching for a passage across the North Pole. The captain runs into Victor Frankenstein who is frantically searching for the monster. Frankenstein then tells him the story.

Similar to the book, the monster in the movie is created decently early in the story. One of the things Mary Shelley presents so well is the nature vs. nurture theory. Was the monster born evil or did society make him so? In Victor Frankenstein the monster was hands-down born a monster. His first instinct was to kill everything in sight—basically to pull a Hulk and smash everything.

In actuality the monster is supposed to be like a newborn to this world. He can’t talk, read, or walk right away, and no one wants to be around him (sorry, babies).

In time, the monster plots revenge on Frankenstein, killing his family members and even finally killing Frankenstein himself. The last scene was the monster actually burning himself moments after telling the captain of the ship that he is done with mankind.  The book never shows the monster killing himself, but he does tell others that he will. The movie takes it a step further by actually showing the monster sticking to his word.

Needless to say, watch Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein if you want an accurate depiction of the book. Frankenstein is a gripping tale of a monster who can’t fit into this world. He didn’t have a say in his own creation and thus acts out by his lack of acceptance. Maybe this movie would have been better if our rebellious teenage black-sheep versions watched it to relate to it, minus the killing, of course. But, fine, if you have a crush on Daniel Radcliffe, then by all means, Victor Frankenstein might be up your (Diagon) alley.


Devin Koch is a Virginia Tech MFA poetry candidate. He loves enchiladas, hugs, Star Wars, and heated debates on who should be the next Bachelor. Check him out at devinhkoch.com

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