James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe come together in this bizarro twist of the legendary tale of Frankenstein. A colorful comedic telling at times that fits the films style but transforms into a nearly blockbuster suspense-thriller for the latter half. It’s one of those movies that no one will probably know for sure what they are getting themselves into, which is part of the intrigue, but afterward I don’t know if I will be remembering this one.
In brief, I would say this pairs similarities with the recent Johnny Depp SHERLOCK HOLMES movies with Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) playing the eccentric lush whose overly talkative and socially awkward while Radcliffe plays his toned down intelligent sidekick that helps keep things in order. The London setting, time period and almost steam-punkesque stylization of each elaborate set seems almost too familiar though this it is something I love.
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN follows the quick wit and snappy dialogue with a good back story and strong buddy film set-up that leads into an entirely different film for the second half. There was far more action than expected and a few darker moments that helped it feel more like a Frankenstein film rather than a new SHERLOCK HOLMES saga. Although, there are some very Sherlock Holmes style twists. However, for some reason, and I still cannot put my finger on it exactly, the movie felt odd and out of place. Maybe it was it being too bright and cheery looking, or perhaps it was McAvoy’s annoying over-the-top canter. Regardless let’s dive deeper.
The film looks further into Frankenstein’s protégé Igor Strausman, the hunchback we all know of from past films. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN begins at Barnaby’s Circus where we meet the shy hunchback played by Radcliffe as a crippled clown. Upon a visit by experimental scientist Victor Frankenstein along with a predicament that places Radcliffe as a savior for a fallen trapeze artist named Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), Victor realizes this man is being underused and breaks him out of the circus to join him in his groundbreaking experiments.
As we all know, Victor’s experiments get a little out of control and his obsession is leading him to a creation of a monster. While noble, Victors passion to create life raises many controversies with society. Victor and the newly named Igor must find every means possible to continue their work while a bible thumping constable (Andrew Scott) is on a mission to take them and their demonizing efforts down.
The cast was all excellent, though perhaps their direction by Paul McGuigan was a little off. Radcliffe did exceptional while with his his hunch and you’ll see, post-hunchback. He took it the right direction, though I don’t know if I can say the same for McAvoy. He was clearly led to play Frankenstein a bit crazy and obsessed at times, which plays true to the character, but at times McAvoy comes across as someone just acting insane rather than actually mental.
There was a moment in the film during one of the many high intensity conversations from Frankenstein to Igor that I realized there was never moment of calmness from McAvoy. While I understand the need to show Frankenstein a certain way, I couldn’t help but want to slap the man and just yell for him to calm down. However, I must give credit to some excellent interactions between McAvoy and Andrew Scott. There is some great tension and superb writing that I would champion in this film, but those are just short little bursts that get lost in a jumbled tale of two movies.
As I said earlier, I can’t put my finger on one thing that doesn’t work other than the film having two tones and includes a rushed timetable that seems forced and unnecessary. A love story for Igor to show his humanity and how Frankenstein sees love nearly as a distraction didn’t help matters either. There are some good themes sprinkled throughout including a darker story of Frankenstein’s past, but none of it was enough to get past some of the ridiculousness.
Lets not forget that this is a FRANKENSTEIN movie after all. Realism can be thrown out the door, but VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN strives to be real with the science behind it all in an attempt to make it seem like it is somewhat possible. At first it was refreshing to see, but later became far-fetched and a stretch when other moments in the film featured such absurdity that made times of serious scientific babble seem displaced.
Above anything else, the questions raised by this film made it the most thought provoking Frankenstein to date. Sure, these are the same subtle themes as before, but that’s the best thing to come out of this film. While I love witty British humor and colorful turn of the century period pieces, especially of those abroad, something fell flat. It’s possible that it was all entirely too clean at times and maybe a little overly manufactured. While beautiful, too light at times to make me take it seriously. I understand the films focal point was the humor at times, but other there were too many ways this could have gone but never chose a path I wanted to follow.
Definitely entertaining, but maybe better as a Sunday movie while laying in bed as I reading through my latest social media blurbs.