It is not so much that the Frankenstein epic as imagined by Mary Shelley more than 200 years ago is making a comeback. It’s that it has never left. 

The current Oscar-nominated film “Poor Things” borrows heavily from the Frankenstein motif and turns it into a new wave feminist manifesto. Universal Pictures churned out various Frankenstein films from the 1930s to the 1950s, mangling the story but filling their coffers. The British horror film company Hammer picked up the flag in the 1950s through the 1970s with multiple spins on the Frankenstein franchise.

The story even survived the comic assault of Mel Brooks. There are billboards right now advertising a movie called “Lisa Frankenstein” with the premise of a reanimated corpse as the backdrop for a rom-com.

The closest any film has come to the original was actor/director Kenneth Branagh’s version in the 1990s, called “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” The film was indeed her story and follows the plot closely. But in the end, I found it disappointing, as it fixated on the monster/violence aspect and not the more subtle attributes of the story that make it so universal. 

As divergent from the original material as the first two Universal Pictures Frankenstein movies were, Karloff’s monster, especially in the sequel “Bride of Frankenstein,” really captured the pathos of the creature who feels abandoned, alienated, and alone in the world.

And now news comes that acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro, noted for his penchant for the macabre, is about to go into production with another attempt to tell the Frankenstein story. A recent article about the preparation for the film claimed del Toro was for some reason in a remote frozen landscape getting ready to shoot. 

Not to sound like a Frankenstein snob, but having read the book more than a couple of times, the story begins in a very cold, desolate, and foreboding place — and things just get worse from there.

Like sharks, and the monster of all metaphors, the Titanic, Frankenstein will not let go of our morbid curiosity. But it is something more than just a good horror story. 

Even though Mary Shelley orbited a progressive/libertine social strata that flaunted traditional religious standards and practices, the core of the story from which everything resonates is the human folly of playing God — as Shelley so eloquently stipulates in the novel. “Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” 

It is a warning Victor Frankenstein ignores at his peril.

Sadly, in the 200 years hence, we have thrown caution to the wind with human endeavors equally ignoble as Dr. Frankenstein’s quest. From continuing to seek out just how much city-destroying power exists within the tiniest of atoms to working on truly Frankenstein-inspired medical research in virology labs, we cloak our attempts in tortured language such as “gain of function.” 

And our hubris just keeps going. Mary Shelley could never have imagined sex-selective abortion, growing “spare” parts via stem cells, or cloning. 

But just as Shelley, her avant-garde lifestyle notwithstanding, was a product of her time, so is del Toro. He shares Shelley’s disinterest in traditional principles, but is unshackled by any cultural guideposts. His film “The Shape of Water,” a kind of Frankenstein story in and of itself, is a good window into his point of view. Still, I will probably see his new version when it comes out, though I have a nagging feeling I will be disappointed regardless of how faithful he is to the plot.

The tale of Frankenstein and his “creation” has survived these many centuries not so much because of its plot structure, but for what it asks about life, creation, and the true nature of humanity. The novel makes it clear. “God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance.” 

Will the next chapter in the Frankenstein movie matrix hit these same points or miss the mark? The bad news is we have to wait and see until the film comes out. The good news is this next version, good or bad, may stir the embers of interest in this worthy book and cause people to read it for themselves. It will horrify them for sure, but it may also enlighten them.