If nothing else, Victor Frankenstein succeeds in its efforts to retell the story of the titular figure, and not the monster he’s so often conflated with. This re-imagining of the horror classic sees Frankenstein and his assistant Igor take center stage over the pair’s iconic creation, playing less a horror flick and more of a character-driven period piece. As an adaption of Mary Shelley’s novel, it’s hard not to call it a failure on multiple levels. However, as a remix of the original material, it’s at least an interesting, if flawed, attempt.
Given the way Frankenstein is tied up in the history of pop culture, it feels almost redundant to sketch out the film’s plot. Victor meets Igor, together they create the monster, calamity ensues – you know how it goes. The hook of the movie comes in the way it frames the story around the journey of Igor from circus freak to hero, ultimately playing up the idea that uplifting Igor is Frankenstein’s greatest act.
Inconsistencies about the nature of his spinal-condition aside, Daniel Radcliffe performs admirably in the role as Igor. On the other side of things, James McAvoy brings a weird but likable eccentricity of Victor. His energized speeches about the nature of life are as grandiose as you’d expect but his friendship with Igor is surprisingly compelling, often all-but-implying a romance between the two.
Rounding out the cast, Andrew Scott plays a zealous detective determined to bring Frankenstein to justice for his crimes against god while Freddie Fox plays an ambitious rival to Victor determined to use leverage to his own ends. Charles Dance even pops in for a scene or two as Victor’s father.
Though director Paul McGuigan is a veteran of BBC’s Sherlock, Victor Frankenstein actually has a lot more in common with Guy Ritchie’s 2009 film Sherlock Holmes. The sets and costuming are lavishly detailed and the direction carried by a tune that’s almost too close to Ritchie’s film.
That said, it’s almost a shame that they didn’t borrow the sense of humor from Ritchie’s film. Though Radcliffe and McAvoy have a few few fun moments together, on the whole it’s a little too serious for its own good.
As a film, Victor Frankenstein is kind-of bizarre but as an adaptation of the original book, it’s grotesque. For all the things that work about the film, it’s let down by its failure to even approach the most interesting aspects of its source material. The Monster ends up being manifesting as nothing more than a mindless brute and all the female figures in the story are sidelined to plot devices.
At least it’s better than I, Frankenstein.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Victor Frankenstein releases on DVD and Blu-ray on May 25th. Digital copies are available on Google Play and iTunes now.