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Walking into Victor Frankenstein, I admit I did not have the highest hopes for this film. Usually when famous classic stories are “re-imagined”, the audience is so familiar with the tale that it’s hard to see it with an updated perspective. It is hard for the audience to see what the director wants us to see. After the disastrous, I, Frankenstein, from last year, I was hoping that a script directed by Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) from acclaimed horror writer, Max Landis, that this version would be a least a little entertaining. I was mistaken.
The story begins with the at first nameless character, played by Daniel Radcliffe, an abused hunchback circus clown who has never experienced kindness from any human being, until a stranger arrives and they save the life of an injured trapeze artist. After being amazed by the hunchback’s natural scientific gifts, Victor Frankenstein, the stranger, frees him from the circus, removes his hump, gives him some clothes, and employs him as his new assistant.
Victor (James McAvoy) is a brilliant, yet arrogant medical student, who is bored by standard medical school experiments and embarks on a more ambitious project involving dead animal parts. Victor and the newly christened Igor decide to show their new creation to his school and to the wildly impressed Finnegan, a fellow student. Even though Frankenstein and Igor’s animal creation proves to be highly dangerous, Finnegan still agrees to give Frankenstein funding to build a new project, a logical, free-thinking man.
Meanwhile, Igor and Victor are being relentlessly pursued by Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott), who at first is after them for a murder that took place at the circus the same night Igor escaped. But after getting wind of Victor’s attempt to create human life from death, he chases him for crimes against morality.
There are several obstacles preventing Victor from achieving his goal of creating new life from death. And I mean several. The Inspector destroys Victor’s lab even after being terminated from his case, so he must relocate. Igor has fallen in love with Lorelai, the trapeze artist that he saved in the beginning of the movie, and has become increasingly distracted. Victor’s father has gotten wind of his poor school performance and has come by to destroy his confidence. All the while, Victor has become increasingly mad about finishing his experiment.
The best part of this film by far is the committed performances from Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. Daniel Radcliffe’s transformation from battered circus performer to confident young man is indeed a quick one, but he handles the change well and still manages to maintain the same innocence and vulnerability. James McAvoy is basically an evil mad scientist, but you never get the sense that he is completely evil by his treatment of Igor and the fact that he endures quite a bit of abuse himself from his father and his schoolmates. It seems as if every time we start to fall in love with the main characters a little bit more, one of the many ridiculous obstacles present themselves and they yet again must get out of a jam.
The supporting characters, the Inspector, Igor’s girlfriend, the father, Finnegan the benefactor, serve absolutely no purpose in this film. I’m guessing they are all created to move the plot along, but it seems as if they are there to signal that another scene is about to happen.
The worst part of Victor Frankenstein is the clumsy, pointless finale. It’s a huge spectacle in a far off location that has a lot of a special effects and violence, but no real purpose. And it also looks really artificial.
I wish I could say I could understand what McGuigan was trying to achieve with this script, but I don’t. Besides Victor and Igor, characters just kind of go in and out of this movie abruptly to remind you that they still exist. A couple of the action scenes are a little too long and even though the Inspector is supposedly the villain, we’re not really sure if his intentions are malicious. He just thinks Frankenstein is maybe morally corrupt (?)
Victor Frankenstein starts off with promise, but you can tell while watching that it went through many script changes to make it more action packed. The more the film progresses the less sense it makes. Plagued with too many characters, unclear plot, and some bad production design, you will forget about Victor Frankenstein before you leave the theater.