National Theatre Live: Frankenstein (2011) starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Jonny Lee Miller

[1] Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has lasted because of the profound themes in her story – the morality of science, parental responsibilities, man’s vanity, the removal of the divine from creation etc. Nick Dear’s writing takes these all on, keeping the story’s political punch alive. 

[2] …great comic timing in his depiction of the more playful parts of the Creature’s growing pains, and real tendresse and anxiety as the Creature battles his own internal conflict between love and revenge.

-Victoria Sadler (Huffington Post, 10/29/13)

Frankenstein (adapted by Nick Dear from Mary Shelley’s novel) returned to movie screens this past week (10/22 & 10/29) just in time for Halloween. I almost forgot that this was on (until I looked up my local movie listings this afternoon)! In my audience, I saw several older couples (as I’d expect to see at live theater), along w/ two young ladies (Japanese), and a few other women in their 20s and 30s. Filmed in 2011 at the National Theatre in London, this (sold-out) production has been seen by about 500,000 worldwide. Directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle, Frankenstein features Cumberbatch and Miller (who seem to be good friends; both have played Sherlock) alternating between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. FYI: I saw the version where Cumberbatch (long before he was a household name in either the UK or US) was the Creature.

[1] …it’s rather like seeing The Tempest rewritten from Caliban’s point of view.

[2] Cumberbatch’s Creature is unforgettable. “Tall as a pine tree,” as the text insists, he has humour as well as pathos… But there is also an epic grandeur about Cumberbatch. As he quotes Paradise Lost, his voice savours every syllable of Milton’s words…

-Michael Billington (The Guardian, 2/23/11)

Wherever the Creature goes, people scream in fear and/or beat him, until he comes upon the hut of a blind man, De Lacey (veteran actor Karl Johnson). This is a poor former professor (w/ a lot of old books) who lives w/ his farmer son, Klaus, and daughter-in-law, Agatha. De Lacey is kind and gentle w/ the Creature, teaching him in secret for about a year. The Creature clears away rocks (so the couple can till the soil) and fetches wood for making fire. The old man even tells the Creature that if he “is a good man,” then someday he’ll have someone to love. One day, De Lacey insists upon introducing him to the family. It goes wrong- quickly and like the “emperors and heroes in the stories” he’s read, the Creature vows “revenge.”

I should be Adam. God was proud of Adam. But Satan’s the one I sympathise with. For I was cast out, like Satan, though I did no wrong. And when I see others content, I feel the bile rise in my throat, and it tastes like Satan’s bile! -The Creature explains to Victor 

The central question of this story: Who is the real monster- the Creature or Frankenstein himself? The young scholar Frankenstein rejects his creation, cursing it and throwing it out into the streets (along w/ a notebook of experiments). While Victor has been engaged to Elizabeth (a pretty, strong-willed, yet empathetic Naomie Harris), he barely speaks w/ her or shows any kind of affection. The outcast/lonely Creature desperately wants someone to love, asking Victor to make “a mate” for him. At first, Victor is repulsed by the notion, but quickly becomes intrigued at the thought of “the perfect woman.” They shake hands (strike a bargain) and Victor goes off to England, then Scotland, to do his work. From here, the play gets even darker in tone! (Now I’m curious about the original book.)

[1] Using the first 30 minutes to display the creature gradually “building” his own personality, Dear places the “voice” and troubled psychological aspect of the creature right at the centre of the adaptation, with Dear smartly showing Frankenstein and the towns people’s interactions from the outcast point of view of the creature. Whilst the screenplay does show that Frankenstein and the towns people turn the creature into “the monster” that they fear, due to being focused on the permanently damaged exterior and not the welcoming, and repairable interior of the creature.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives an unexpectedly subtle, vulnerable performance, with the opening of the film solely focusing on the creature rising from the dead, allowing Cumberbatch to place the viewer deep inside the skin of the character, thanks to Cuberbatch slowly showing the creature transform from being speechless and native, to using human skills such as lying to his deadly advantage.

[2] An intense, must-see thrilling performance from both Cumberbatch and Miller. The dialogues filled with static chemistry, a beautiful and perfect mix between beauty and horror, a destabilized yet animated stage that shows all facets of life and death. A hypnotizing and cutting-edge play, a real work of art that is absolutely not to be missed.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (NOW PLAYING)

The company is getting close to Erebor...
The company is getting close to Erebor…

I saw this film during its second week, b/c I wanted to wait until my lil bro was visiting.  He said that “the first movie was slow,” an opinion shared by several friends/acquaintances of mine.  My mom mainly went to see Richard Armitage (she’s a fan, too).  I loved the LOTR films, so I continue to follow these films. 

SPOILERS: Don’t read further if you have not yet seen, or don’t want to know, details from this film.

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) fights a giant spider in Mirkwood Forest
Bilbo (Martin Freeman) fights a giant spider in Mirkwood Forest

Bilbo becomes “a more rounded character” (Freeman’s words) in this film.  He uses the ring (several times) to get out of jams, kills an orc (his first kill, I believe), and then faces off against a giant spider.  We see how his little sword, later bequeathed to Frodo,  got its name- Sting. 

The throne of the elven king, Thranduil
The throne of the elven king, Thranduil

Gandalf goes off (again) to see the gathering evil in Dol Guldur.  We hear the voice of The Necromancer (later known as Sauron), voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.  Yes, he is everywhere these days, and I’m not complaining! 

The dwarves go into Mirkwood Forest, which is not a friendly, cheery place like Rivendell.  The king, Thranduil (Lee Pace), is a very interesting character; I wanted to see a bit more of him.  He can do and say whatever he pleases in this realm.  Thranduil disapproves of his son Legolas’ (Orlando Bloom) “partiality” (perhaps love?) of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the captain of the royal guard. 

Thranduil (Lee Pace) talks to Thorin
Thranduil (Lee Pace) talks to Thorin

There is no love lost between Thranduil and Thorin (Armitage), since the elves didn’t come to the dwarves’ aid many years back (when the dragon attacked).  I loved the cut-down/insult scene between Thranduil and Thorin; Richard said was his favorite bit of acting in DOS

Thorin glares at Thranduil
Thorin glares at Thranduil

As I said before, great acting is the eyes.  We can see the hate/distrust between the two leaders, and their races, displayed here.   

Legolas (Orlando Bloom) listens to Tauriel & Kili
Legolas (Orlando Bloom) listens to Tauriel & Kili

On Twitter (and beyond), some book readers commented “Why is Legolas here?  He doesn’t add anything.  He takes away from Bilbo’s story.”   Since I haven’t read any of these books, I can’t comment on that aspect.  Legolas gets some cool action moments (as in the LOTR films), but doesn’t make a big mark otherwise.  Tauriel, not in the book, is a nicely-developed character.  She’s quick to act, a tough fighter, but also caring.  Tauriel wants to help the dwarves along on their quest, especially when they are overrun by orcs.   

Kili (Aidan Turner)
Kili (Aidan Turner)

Some people didn’t like the (potential?) romance between Tauriel and Kili, but I thought their scenes were very well-done.  After a while, I got tired of all the action sequences Aidan Turner (aside from being handsome/likeable) is a good actor, I realized. 

The barrel scene (the dwarves escape the dungeon)
The barrel scene (the dwarves escape the dungeon)

The barrel scene was very cool, I have to admit.  (I’d seen bits of it before on BTS clips.)  Richard said that at one point, he was “dragged under by the current” and had to be pulled out of the “freezing cold water.”

The new characters: Bard (Luke Evans) & Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly)
The new characters: Bard (Luke Evans) & Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly)

The human, Bard the Bowman, was a highlight in this film (even more that Tauriel).  Luke Evans has a very strong voice and lovely (Welsh) accent.  I loved his scene with Thorin at the foot of the mayor’s house.  Both men have fallen from what they were born to, we learn. 

Bard's kids in their Laketown home

Bard’s kids are very cute/sweet, don’t you think?  The two girls are not professional actors; they are daughters of James Nesbitt (who plays Bofur).  When orcs attack, they are very stunned, but Tauriel and Legolas come to the rescue.  Tauriel applies an herb, found by Bofur, to Kili’s leg wound and says an elvish prayer. 

At the door to Erebor (The Lonely Mountain)
At the door to Erebor (The Lonely Mountain)

Bilbo figures out another riddle, allowing the company to see the door to Erebor.  Hmmm… why did Thorin give up before Bilbo?  Some viewers wondered this.  Armitage shines in the (quiet) scene that follows- he’s feeling like more of a king. 

Sidenote: Some viewers enjoyed the fact that Thorin’s voice was not as gruff/deep as in AUJ; it was more natural.  Since Richard has such a wonderful voice, why change it? 

Bilbo meets Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Bilbo meets Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Yes, Smaug is very big/impressive, as I heard!  Cumberbatch worked two weeks on the voice (which is fabulous) and the motion capture (as Andy Serkis did with Gollum).  In effect, the dragon’s expressions resemble his (to some extent).  Bilbo is scared, so he stays calm and flatters the dragon, while the dwarves go about their plans.  However, the molten gold doesn’t kill Smaug, and he flies off to attack Laketown.  Awww man, we have to wait another year!    

Polls:

Other Items:

Q&A w/ Richard & Lee

Richard’s voice on UK commercial

Get in the holiday spirit w/ these fun items!

A holiday pic (by Eni, creator of Richard Armitage Bulgaria Facebook page)
A holiday pic (by Eni, creator of Richard Armitage Bulgaria Facebook page)

Martin Freeman interviewed by Warner Bros. France (5:21)

Richard Armitage interviewed by Warner Bros. France (6:28)

Benedict Cumberbatch interviewed by Warner Bros. France (6:11)

Voice-over switch video: Thornton & Thorin

Candid pics from various The Hobbit: DOS premieres (via RichardArmitage.net)

Benedict & Tom Hiddleston dance-off (via Jezebel)

Martin & Richard interviewed by TwoTube TV, an Irish channel (3:55)

Richard’s Christmas message to fans (via Richard Armitage Central)