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New Release Review - VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

Bromantic take on Mary Shelley's classic tale of a man playing God.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Paul McGuigan

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott


"You know this story!" Those prophetic words open Victor Frankenstein, immediately alerting us to its lack of imagination. Save for a pointless origin story for Frankenstein's assistant, Igor (Radcliffe), Victor Frankenstein adds nothing to Mary Shelley's tale.




"You know this story!" Those prophetic words open Victor Frankenstein, immediately alerting us to its lack of imagination. Daniel Radcliffe's voiceover then goes on to remark how Frankenstein is often confused with the monster, rather than its creator. This, we're told, is a story that will focus on Victor Frankenstein. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the focus of 99% of all previous Frankenstein movies? Screenwriter Max Landis recently complained about the lack of original scripts currently being greenlit, but he seems to have a strange idea of what constitutes originality. Save for a pointless origin story for Frankenstein's assistant, Igor (Radcliffe), Victor Frankenstein adds nothing to Mary Shelley's tale.
Ignore the title; Radcliffe's Igor is the central character here, somehow narrating the story despite us being presented with scenes he isn't privy to. We meet him first as an unnamed, slouched over hunchback, employed by a cruel Victorian London circus in an act that seems to consists of his being beaten up by clowns. On the side, the hunchback studies medicine, which comes in handy when acrobat Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) takes a tumble. Along with a mysterious physician, the hunchback repairs her wound. The physician introduces himself as Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy), and takes the hunchback under his wing, renaming him Igor, removing his hunch by draining it of Mountain Dew, and straightening his legs implausibly with a girdle.
Unless you're completely oblivious to any prior renditions of the Frankenstein tale, you know exactly where this is going, with Victor and Igor teaming up to create new life from pilfered body parts. The film adds a heavy dose of bromance between its leads (Findlay serves no narrative purpose other than to distract a couple of guards in the final reel), but little else.
The influence of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movies is stamped all over director Paul McGuigan's aesthetic, with lots of irritating 'speed up, slow down' action beats, and medical diagrams superimposed over characters' bodies as Victor sizes them up. A similar gag was used to great comic effect in the under-rated 1970 Hammer entry The Horror of Frankenstein, but here any laughs are generated sans intent.
McAvoy's performance is initially fun, written very much in the vein of Peter Cushing's arrogant Frankenstein from the great Hammer cycle. He plays it as high camp but his performance is dialled up far past the rest of the movie. But ultimately, Victor Frankenstein's greatest crime is that it's simply dull, a poorly constructed take on a literary classic that really doesn't need any more reinventions. We'll get more takes though, with Universal planning to reinvent the creature as a quasi-superhero. This is one creation Hollywood intends to reanimate, and to hell with the consequences!
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