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Wayback Wednesday: Gods and Monsters (1998)

Is this the summer I watch every forgotten Brendan Fraser movie? It just might be.

Hi, I’m back!

I’m so sorry for the long time, no post, but things in both my professional and personal lives have been making such leaps and bounds lately that I hardly have time to watch movies anymore! And if I of all people can’t find the time to watch movies, than you know that’s a busy schedule. But I’m back to (hopefully) regular posting and what a time to resume my blog duties because it’s officially PRIDE season, AKA the best time of the year! To kick off the season, I chose for today’s Wayback an interesting indie film that probably flies under a lot of people’s radar. Gods and Monsters (1998) may not be the first movie that comes to mind when one thinks of Ian McKellen or Brendan Fraser, but trust me when I say that it’s among some of their best work. Y’know, after X-Men (2000) and The Mummy (1999), that is. By the way, check out my review for X-Men, here!

Credit: imdb.com / Lions Gate Films

Based on Christopher Bram’s novel, “Father of Frankenstein,” Gods and Monsters recounts the partly fictionalized last days of James Whale, the famous director behind such hits as Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933). When Whale meets his new gardener, Clayton Boone and asks him to pose for a drawing, the two seemingly different men find common ground and forge an unlikely friendship.

When I first found out about the existence of this movie, there was no question that I had to see it. It’s a yes to McKellen, it’s a yes to Fraser and it’s a yes to a biopic about the trailblazing gay director who made some of the most iconic horror movies ever! By the way, check out my review of Frankenstein, here. I was all in and ready to love it. I was certainly interested in Gods and Monsters when it started, but as the movie progressed I found myself becoming less and less enthralled. Don’t get me wrong. Whale’s story and his experiences make for interesting content, but because the movie has no real plot, the movie can best be summed up as “quite a bit of sitting and talking.” At times watching Gods and Monsters feels a lot like being a visitor at an old folks home: Listening to a perfectly lovely senior citizen tell the same story over and over again while you guzzle down iced tea. I would have enjoyed what this movie had to say if didn’t insist on repeating the same scenes and conversations over and over.

The saving grace of Gods and Monsters are the astounding performances of McKellen and Fraser as James Whale and Clayton Boone, respectively. Brendan Fraser…what an absolute gift that we as audience members do not deserve. Or appreciate enough! Rest assured that the patented talent, charisma and sexiness of Fraser are on full display throughout the movie. Fraser has always been and will continue to be a delight in everything I see him in and it warms my heart that he’s having a solid career resurgence these days. Truthfully though, seeing him in Gods and Monsters really made me want to watch The Mummy for the 18 millionth time. Hmm, you know what’s weird? Not only were Fraser and co-star Kevin J. O’Connor in The Mummy, a movie based on a classic Universal movie monster, but Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon was previously attached to direct the Dark Universe Bride of Frankenstein movie. Lol, remember when Hollywood tried to make THAT happen? That was meant to be a remake of the 1935 Universal monster movie originally directed by guess who? James Whale! Spooky!

The highs and lows of Whale’s life and career are wonderfully captured by McKellen who delivers a sensational performance as usual. McKellen is an actor you can always depend on to turn it out and Gods and Monsters is no exception. It’s really McKellen’s movie to shine. His performance as Whale is the headline. He captures the zesty and playful side of the director while also not afraid to explore the darker aspects and qualities of Whale as well. Maybe it’s because I’ve had my head in the theatre these days, but I can really see these performances and the movie as a whole, being better-suited for the stage. Perhaps in the intimacy of a theatre these subdued performances and style of storytelling would be better appreciated. 

Unfortunately, what I learned most from my first viewing of Gods and Monsters was that even in the 1990s, mainstream Hollywood loved to tell stories about queer people as long as they were rife with tragedy, disappointment, outdated stereotypes and death. It was possible to tell positive stories of queerness even back then, people! Case in point, the incredibly uplifting and eventual cult classic, But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) was released only one year later! By the way, check out my review for that movie here and if you haven’t already, PLEASE go watch But I’m a Cheerleader. Now THAT’S a great way to start this Pride season.

Have you seen Gods and Monsters?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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