Told from the perspective of former circus freak turned assistant Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), this take on Mary Shelley’s classic tale sees Frankenstein’s experiments to create life from death thwarted by the investigations of a suspicious and moral police officer, and Frankenstein’s disapproving father.
Another year, and it seems it is time for another movie based on Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel. This time, the story seems to only have taken inspiration from Shelley’s book, as Igor has been introduced, and the initial creation of Frankenstein’s monster is the focus of the film.
James McAvoy seems to have a great time in the title role as Victor Frankenstein; he shouts and runs, spits and raises all kinds of hell on screen. This kind of hammy, over the top performance would be fine if the rest of the film was as manic as McAvoy, but it seems that he is out on his own here. Daniel Radcliffe further distances himself from the role that made him famous, and loses some more of his recognisable tics along the way, giving a strong performance as Igor, the moral heart and compass of the film. Radcliffe’s physicality is particularly good, although his character’s mind seems as changeable as the weather in the film. The rest of the cast features Charles Dance, Louise Brealey, Jessica Brown Findlay, Freddie Fox and Mark Gatiss. Since this is a story of Frankenstein and his assistant, not many of the cast have much to do, with the exception of Andrew Scott who plays a religious man obsessed with ending Frankenstein’s work “of Satan”.
Max Landis’ screenplay borrows lightly from the source material of the film, and adds in a story involving Frankenstein’s brother, a benefactor, a first experiment gone wrong and a police officer obsessed with finding out just what Frankenstein is up to, and putting an end to it… ‘cos his wife died… Or something. The trouble with the screenplay is just as a character establishes themselves as behaving one way, they quickly change their mind, get dragged off course or have a sudden revelation that leaves the audience consistently off kilter. As well as this, the final set piece is so bonkers, so over the top and filled with so many character changing their minds that the audience simply loses interest along the way.
Director Paul McGuigan has great fun with the first hour of the film, establishing relationships, Victorian London and the general feel of the film, but once we cross into the second hour everything becomes messy, manic and disconnected, with a final set piece that feels as though it doesn’t really matter, and a twist that was obvious throughout the entire affair. Still, the film looks good, but has very little going on under the surface.
In all, Victor Frankenstein really brings nothing new to the tale of Frankenstein and his obsessions. Or rather, it does, but it is not anything that was needed, is engaging or is in any way satisfying. The film looks good and Daniel Radcliffe tries his damnedest but there comes a point when this entire affair is familiar, unengaging and rather silly, but not in a good way.