My guess is when James McAvoy read the Max Landis’s script for the latest telling of Mary Shelley’s classic allegorical monster story, Victor Frankenstein, his reaction was, “Well, do we really need another one of these?” Studio’s response, “Yes, Mr. McAvoy, we do.” Mr. McAvoy’s reply, “Well, let me see if I can breath some life into this dead horse” and with that we have Paul McGuigan’s vision of Victor Frankenstein. This is not a good movie, but it is not entirely without merit. This is an “origins” story as seen through the eyes of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe making good use of his post Harry Potter days with a slew of good films and a bunch more on the way).
Igor actually does not start out as Igor but rather a freak in the circus. Yes, he was a hunchback but not permanently and when you find out what made him one, it seems logical enough. No, you will not have to endure Daniel Radcliffe scurrying around for two hours, salivating on himself while muttering “Yes, Master”. It is rather clever how it is handled and there is a lot about this film that I did like. Most notably is James McAvoy. He is quite simply one of the best actors out there. He immerses himself in the character and has a blast doing so and it shows. He does not care that this is a movie that has been made before. He infuses energy and passion into the title character and his chemistry with Radicliffe is what makes this film work. They are both written with intelligence so when they talk shop, so to speak, we believe they know what they are talking about. Their performances are terrific. I just wished the rest of the film was up to their level.
Where the film falters is in the final act where it gives way to a lot of visual effects stuffed into a claustrophobic and hurried up conclusion. The film is effective in setting up the finale, but rather than stick to the characters and their behavior there is a lot of coincidental characters showing up at just the right time to save the others. I also found Andrew Scott as Frankenstein’s arch nemesis Inspector Turpin to be less than appealing. He did not seem to be very threatening to me and I thought Victor Frankenstein could handle him with considerable ease. The lovely Jessica Brown Findley is Lorelie, the love interest to Igor. She is sweet enough, but does not offer much to the story other than , “The Girl”. Findley is a fine actress and Andrew Scott is a fine actor, but they are strictly one dimensional and are not given that much to do. They could not have even been in the film and I would not have noticed. Where the film is strongest is in its two leads. This is where most of the film stays and on that level it works.
McAvoy could read a manual for a toaster and make it exciting and interesting. Radcliffe is broadening his acting talent and taking different and difficult roles. He does a fine job, here as Igor and I believed him to be Victor Frankenstein’s equal and Craig Armstrong provides another powerful score. I just wish the film believed in its material enough to supply us with interesting characters other than the two leads. As it stands, Victor Frankenstein is not a horrible film, but this is a missed opportunity to breath new life into a timeless story. It is PG-13 so it is not a total gorefest and most of the gore looks like it is CGI. Victor Frankenstein tries to be a mixed bag of horror, action, comedy and drama but only works as a dark dramatic comedy about the creation of life. If you can settle in for an uneven but well acted film, then Victor Frankenstein is what the doctor ordered.
Victor Frankenstein- ** 3/4 out of 5
Victor Frankenstein- Rated PG13 for language, violence and gore
Victor Frankenstein- Run Time is 110 minutes
Victor Frankenstein is now available on DVD and On Demand.