I will admit that I went into the screening of Paul McGuigan’s Victor Frankenstein film with fairly low expectations. I had heard mixed things about the film and even excluding these, I found myself wondering if we really really need another film based on the Frankenstein character. I have nothing against Frankenstein, or the creature that he so foolishly created, I just couldn’t see what something that appeared to take itself so seriously (judging by the trailer) might add to things. I must admit that having seen the film, I don’t think it added a great deal. I did however, find that I quite enjoyed it.
James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe star in a dynamic and thrilling twist on a legendary tale. Radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) and his equally brilliant protégé Igor Strausman (Radcliffe) share a noble vision of aiding humanity through their groundbreaking research into immortality. But Victor’s experiments go too far, and his obsession has horrifying consequences. Only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation.
Victor Frankenstein starts by following the fortunes of a knocked-around hunchback at the circus (Daniel Radcliffe). He is the clown of the show and only finds escape in his medical books and his love for trapezist Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay). A dangerous accident and the displaying of his medical knowledge soon gains him an admirer in the guise of one Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). It doesn’t take long before the pitiable hunchback has assumed the disguise of Frankenstein’s missing house-mate Igor, and is assisting Frankenstein in his macabre explorations of death and reanimation.
The plot is fairly predictable but the slow sense of escalation is done in a quite enjoyable way, the cast of characters around the experimenting duo greasing the wheels of interest quite nicely. Inspector Turpin, a suspicious and religious policeman is ably played by Andrew Scott, an actor that I enjoy watching immensely after first meeting him as Moriarty in Sherlock. Keep an eye out for Louise Brealey (Molly, the forensic scientist in Sherlock) as one of the ladies the main duo run into as well. There are a few more well-known faces but I won’t point them all out here, you’ll have to spot the others yourself.
I must say that I think the star of the show is James McAvoy’s Victor Frankenstein however. James McAvoy is an actor that I often seem to forget about and then, when I see him in something new, remember how talented he is all over again. He plays the temperamental scientist very well indeed, flickers of emotion and mania breaking through the countenance of a character who at times, seems like he is struggling to hold it all together. I found Victor Frankenstein more likeable than Igor if I am honest, but that is partly due to the excellent way he was played.
As far as the locations and other film details, the whole endeavour comes together in a gratifying and satisfying way. There are scenes that will make you cringe, there are others that are quite spectacular to watch. This isn’t a colourful film but the murk and grime lends it a sense of place that cements the action in a more real way. The only thing missing, for myself at least, was the element of surprise. The action was good, the acting I’ve already covered. It was just a by the numbers film in so many ways. Not terrible, not amazing, but somewhere in the middle, yet better than I expected.
If you like gothic science fiction horror that has had a few quid spent on it, you could do a lot worse than Victor Frankenstein. If you like to be surprised and kept on the edge of your seat, you could certainly do better. Even allowing for the fact that it was based on a tale that many will be familiar with, I am pretty sure a few more surprises could have been worked in somewhere. There are a few, but nothing that made me think “Wow!”.
Victor Frankenstein is an above average film that it’s certainly possible to enjoy. Just lower your expectations a little and you’ll feel it was time well spent.
Victor Frankenstein film images © Copyright 20th Century Fox.
GS Rating: 3/5
GS Reviewer: Casey Douglass