Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Victor Frankenstein (2015)
  • Time: 109 min
  • Genre: Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Paul McGuigan
  • Cast: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay


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.

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  • It has been written for hundreds of years that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. But for thousands of years before that, people had been trying to figure out how to beat one or the other (or both). A young British woman named Mary Shelley tapped into interest in that whole trying to beat death thing when she published her novel “Frankenstein” way back in 1818. Many (but not all) feel that Shelley’s story is literature’s first example of science fiction. Either way, there can be no disagreement about the enduring interest in her story over the past two centuries. Many publications, interpretations and differing versions later, 2015 gives us the horror film “Victor Frankenstein” (PG-13, 1:49). This version uses Shelley’s basic idea of a scientist trying to create life out of death and takes as its title the full name of the author’s most famous character, but uses little else from her original story.

    Named after the creator of “the monster”, the story is told through the eyes of the scientist’s loyal assistant, Igor (Daniel Radcliff). As the film opens, he is an abused nameless hunchback clown in a traveling circus. One night when a trapeze artist named Lorelai (Jessica Brown Findlay) falls during a performance, the hunchback rushes to her aid, as does local university science student Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). You wouldn’t know it to look at the hunchback, but he’s well-read and kind of brilliant. Impressed with his knowledge of anatomy, Victor frees the hunchback from his captivity. Victor takes the hunchback home, fixes his hump by draining it, forces his body into an upright position, fits him with a back brace and gives him the name of Victor’s often-absent assistant, Igor.

    Without telling him why, Victor sets Igor to work repairing damaged internal organs of animals, while Victor himself is in an underground laboratory working on… something. The scientist is so excited about the progress they’re making that he treats Igor to a night on the town – a high class party where Igor and Lorelai meet again – both considerably better off than the last time they saw each other. She has recovered from her fall and is now keeping company with a society gentleman, while Igor has cleaned up quite nicely. Victor isn’t shy about talking to people about his experiments and Lorelai becomes the voice of reason and moderation as she learns more about what the two men are up to, while Igor is too blinded by his loyalty to Victor to clearly see what’s happening and what he should do about it.

    Regardless, the progress on Victor’s experiments continues. He presents his first major success at his college and gains a rich, but unscrupulous benefactor (Freddie Fox)… and a crucible full of problems. He arouses the fear of the townspeople, the ire of his father (Charles Dance) and the attention of a crusading police detective named Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott). The rest of the movie involves Victor hurrying to bring his work to its logical conclusion while engaged in increasing levels of disagreement with Igor and a battle of wits with Turpin who sees Victor’s work as an abomination in the eyes of God.

    “Victor Frankenstein” treads its own path through the dark forest that is the Frankenstein story, but some may take issue with just how different it is. The scenes of Victor’s work progressing seem unnecessarily gruesome. That might not have been a problem if the tone of the rest of the movie were consistent with the horror, but McAvoy’s performance is distractingly whimsical. It’s not humorous in the usual sense and is meant to show his character’s madness, but the characterization just comes off as strange. The rivalry between Frankenstein and Turpin pits an atheist scientist against a strongly Christian detective, making both extremes seem like one-way tickets to crazy town. The set decoration is excellent and the performances of Radcliff and Scott are outstanding, but all these positives can’t quite make up for the weirdness in the story and the ridiculousness of some of the scenes. In short, this film deserves kudos for its originality, but falls short in its execution. “B-“

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