Director: Paul McGuigan
Starring; James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Charles Dance, Daniel Mays, Callum Turner
Written by: (also screen story) Max Landis and (based on the novel “Frankenstein”) Mary Shelley.
Running Time: 110 mins
Release date: 3rd December 2015
I am all for introducing a new generation to a classic tale and so was excited to see that Mary Shelley’s immortal tale of monsters and mad scientists was coming back to the screen filled me with glee. The creature and his creator hasn’t had a really decent retelling since Mel Brooks’s now legendary 1974 comedy, Young Frankenstein. Having two of the screen’s hottest properties together for the first time just made it even more mouth-watering. However, after watching Victor Frankenstein, I am very parched indeed. This is more monstrous than the doctor’s creation.
Saved from a circus where he acts as clown as well as doctor, the hunchbacked Igor, is given the opportunity to freedom by Victor Frankenstein, a man who can see a talented medical mind. The two become friends and while the police, led by Inspector Turpin, tries to track them down, Victor and Igor go about the business that Frankenstein freed the former side-show freak: to breathe life into something that is dead. Yet Frankenstein’s mad obsession with creating a human being slowly tears the pair apart.
Director Paul McGuigan, a man who is quoted as saying that Mary Shelley’s original book was ‘as dull as dishwater’. Yet what he has managed to do is make a film that is worse than dull, it’s just a mess. Stealing from Guy Ritchie’s style in the Sherlock Holmes films, McGuigan, who has directed several episodes of the BBC series, Sherlock, uses every visual trick in the book to try to inject some excitement in a film that lacks memorable set pieces, tension or interesting characters that you can emote with.
Max Landis script lacks any real heart, even when it tries to squeeze in a fairly uninspired romance between Igor and a trapeze artist who worked at the same circus. It doesn’t even have any memorable lines or slices of dialogues that you could go away and share. It is, quite frankly, everything that McGuigan complained about the book, dull as dishwater.
The performances range from uninteresting to bonkers. Andrew Scott, who was superb as Moriarty in Sherlock, is given the role of the Inspector, speaking his lines like he has only one tone in his voice. Jessica Brown Findlay, ex-Downton Abbey star, gets to wear bright coloured dresses and a character that has no real hook or development.
Thankfully, the saving graces are its two leads, who throw themselves wholeheartedly into their roles, one more so than the other. As Igor, Daniel Radcliffe moves even further away from Harry Potter with a quietly underplayed performance that is the only person to be close to having a character you can root for. The opening scenes, where he is bullied for being a hunchback, are surprisingly moving. Meanwhile, James McAvoy is allowed full reigns to go ballistic, with an outrageous performance this side of Nicolas Cage. His manic Victor at least inject some element of fun, even if he’s not given the crazy lines to go with it.
I really wanted Victor Frankenstein to be a joyful celebration of all the things I love about a Frankenstein film. Even if McGuigan had made a modern Hammer, full of campness and plunging necklines. Instead he has given us a damp cloth of a film that lacks any real purpose or soul and is only saved by the expertise of two leads, with two very different acting styles. Disappointment of the year.