Starring James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss, Jessica Brown Findlay, Freddie Fox, Callum Turner
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Here at Dread Central I am the resident Frankenstein aficionado. I love everything Frankenstein and have millions of collectibles scattered about my home and office. When news broke of a new film starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, I was elated. And what’s this? It’s written by Max Landis? Color me super intrigued. I had been waiting endlessly, and finally this past weekend the release was upon us.
The first red flag? No advance screenings. Yep, no screenings were held in L.A. for critics (never a good sign) so that meant a review would have to wait until one of us saw the movie around here. I took it in a couple of days ago so here I am… profoundly disappointed.
We live in a world of origin stories, and while that can be okay, sometimes it just doesn’t work. For all intents and purposes Victor Frankenstein should have just been labeled Frankenstein Begins as just when things start to get interesting, it ends.
To start, we’re introduced to a nameless circus hunchback played with gusto and glee by Radcliffe. After seeing his trapeze artist girl crush (Findlay) suffer a horrible accident during a performance, our happy humper leaps into action to help save her life with the assistance of an onlooker, Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy), who is astonished by the carney’s medical knowledge. Later on Victor helps said hunchback escape, fixes his hump, and names him Igor.
You see, given Igor’s raw medical know-how Victor deems him the perfect assistant to help him with his experiments, and thus a bromance is born. Truth be told, the first half of the film is quite good. McAvoy’s portrayal of a flawed and a bit mad Victor Frankenstein is nothing short of brilliant and, dare I say it, could be one of my absolute favorites. At the end of the day, though, we need a Monster to make this a true Frankenstein film. The only problem? The filmmakers remembered this fact way too late.
The last half of the film leading up to the creation of the Modern Prometheus is spent meandering around silly subplots which go nowhere. In fact, we never even get to see the creature being created. No grave robbing. No brain stealing. No nothing really, except for a loose plot point concerning a detective (Scott) dying to solve a case revolving around missing animal parts while preaching about the Lord. After about 30 minutes of nonsense we finally get to Frankenstein’s castle with about 10 minutes of the movie to go.
At the end of the day we get about 15 minutes of monster action total, and that’s including a quick go-around with a pissed-off reanimated monkey around the film’s midway point. The creature itself is a square-jawed imposing beast who resembles Marv from Sin City, but he doesn’t have time to do anything interesting before he’s stricken down by his creators. It’s as if he’s only there to say, “See? This is a Frankenstein movie!”
Let me be clear… Victor Frankenstein is not a retelling of the classic Mary Shelley tale, but instead it’s a possible prequel to it that draws from the source material in dribs and drabs, creating a well acted yet mediocre, unfocused, and forgettable experience.
All the lightning in the world cannot save this one from flatlining halfway through. Victor Frankenstein is far from electrifying, and hopefully the next several Frankenstein-based projects can learn from its missteps… although I wouldn’t hold my breath.