Victor Frankenstein – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Paul McGuigan
Writers: Max Landis (screenplay), Max Landis (screen story)
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown
‘You know this story’: says the opening monologue of Paul McGuigan’s Victor Frankenstein. But though the mad professor, lightening bolts, and ‘unholy creation’ are very much present, there is very little of Mary Shelley’s original story left breathing. Instead, Victor Frankenstein is really an origin story for Igor, the (briefly) humpbacked lab assistant created by the 1930s film adaptation, and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein rather than the original tale.
We are introduced to Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) while he is a nameless circus performer and self taught physician; he meets medical student Frankenstein (James McAvoy) during a performance when beautiful aerialist Lorelei (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Finlay) is injured. Frankenstein rescues him from the circus, fixes the hunchback (in one of the most thrilling moments of the film), and names him Igor after his housemate who ‘isn’t around much’, all in the blink of an eye. From here we get onto slightly more familiar ground, as Igor is introduced piece by piece (literally) to the experiment Frankenstein works on during his downtime: his bid to create life.
The cast are the saving grace of the overcomplicated film. McAvoy is full of manic energy in the title role; making the back-story and an overbearing father (Charles Dance) all the more unnecessary. Likewise, though Radcliffe gives a solid performance as Igor; his interest in Lorelei fails to add anything to the story.
Sadly, the downfall of the film is that it doesn’t really know what it is; and the central story is diluted by a number of unnecessary characters and subplots. Even the police hunt by a devoutly religious detective, is only made palatable by the casting of Andrew Scott; who may be the only actor capable of giving some decidedly hammy lines a certain gravitas. By the time we get to the creation of a human, the action has moved to a castle Saruman would be proud of; and the animation of the monster is ultimately a generically depicted anti climax.
Ultimately, Victor Frankestein is a less intelligent film than it aspires to be. But with some stunning production design (which attempted to avoid cgi in favour of some great location and work by the art department), and notable performances from the central cast, it can certainly be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure – just don’t think too hard about it.