DIR: Paul McGuigan • WRI: Max Landis • PRO: John Davis • DOP: Fabian Wagner • ED: Andrew Hulme, Charlie Phillips • DES: Eve Stewart • MUS: Craig Armstrong • CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Andrew Scott, Jessica Brown Findlay
Sometimes less is more, but evidently no one told director Paul Guigan that. Overstuffed, over acted and over written, Victor Frankenstein is the reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic work that no one asked for. The film offers glimmers of potential throughout its first half, but quickly descends into the realm of melodramatic nonsense. Now and again, moments of substance float to the surface, which suggest that McGuigan could have had a decent film on his hands if only he had not been so heavy-handed in his approach.
Our film begins when Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), a circus hunchback would-be-scientist, is freed from his life of cruelty and humiliation by the charismatic, but clearly unhinged, Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). Seeing in the misshapen boy a spark of intellectual curiosity, Frankenstein makes Igor his assistant as he dangles of the edge of a major scientific discovery. Initially enthusiastic to offer his skills in the name of progress, Igor gradually realises that Frankenstein’s experiment reaches into depths far darker than he anticipated- the creation of life from nothing. On the duo’s tail, however, is the pious Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott), whose foundation of belief is being violently shaken by the possibility of unnatural life. The juxtaposition between Frankenstein’s and Turpin’s extreme beliefs could have made for an interesting narrative arc, but McGuigan strives to make the characters interactions with one another as cliché as possible, draining their scenes of all poignancy. The only thing that the film shares in common with its source material is its protagonists name and the fact that it centres heavily on the theme that just because science can do something, it doesn’t mean that it should. There’s also a highly contrived sub-plot involving Igor’s romantic relationship with the beautiful Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findaly) that is as forced as it is stale. A shame really, that McGuigan did not take more away from Shelley’s superior story-telling.
Though the film can at times focus too much on showing off its rather uninspired CGI London landscape, its visuals are on the whole very lush, as are the spectacular costumes. During certain action sequences, however, the editing becomes a bit sloppy and doesn’t give the audience enough time to take in what is happening in from of them. The performances given by the cast are passable for the most part. McAvoy’s exceptional hammy turn as the title character makes it difficult to discern what exactly audiences are supposed to take away from Frankenstein, be it sympathy or disgust. The only actor who kind of succeeds in creating a three-dimensional performance is Radcliffe as the disfigured Igor. He is our moral compass throughout the film, but Radcliffe does his best to make that compass point at various directions. Unfortunately, he too ultimately suffers from the films bloated script and McGuigan’s directing.
Victor Frankenstein aims low and strikes even lower. Unlikely to satisfy fans of the original novel, or anyone else for that matter, the film is worth a miss.
109 minutes (See IFCO for details)
Victor Frankenstein is released 4th December 2015