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05 December 2015 @ 07:21 pm
Film Review: Victor Frankenstein  
In a failed attempt to combine the styles of Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes film series with BBC's Sherlock, the movie manages to dump all the elements that could have made this an engrossing story about how as humans we deal with the notion of death.


Taking more from film adaptations of Frankenstein rather than the original novel, the story actually centers around Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), the hunchback who becomes the assistant to medical student and aspiring mad scientist Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). When you first meet Igor, he's a nameless, abused, hunchbacked circus worker who is rescued from obscurity by Frankenstein after the latter notices Igor's self-taught medical talents. Frankenstein quickly fixes Igor's back, gives him the name 'Igor,' and invites him to be his partner in his project to create life from death. Grateful to Frankenstein, Igor follows him with a loyal devotion. At least at first. From the early onset, the film makes tentative claims of Igor actually being Frankenstein's first creation. And as Igor becomes his own person throughout the film, he is also the first creation who grows beyond Frankenstein's ability to control him. If the movie had made more of this, I think it would have been a better film. Radcliffe and McAvoy generate a solid chemistry that is asking for a better character story arc and I wanted more of Igor's initial blind loyalty to Frankenstein that starts to tatter as Frankenstein goes down the road of obsession with beating death.

The other interesting story that gets barely touched is Frankenstein's reason for being so devoted to creating life. It's not an original reason by any means but the few times McAvoy took a break from his over the top screech acting was when the movie revealed a bit about his motivations. It also gave some insight into why Frankenstein is so supremely bad at forging relationships with other people. I wanted more of that characterization rather than the standard "I'm so smart and I hate that I'm surrounded by morons so let me be a maniacal jackass" characterization. As a side plea, I ask all writers finally put to bed this Genius Asshole Character. Let's make 2015 the last year we hang an entire movie/tv show around this kind of person, yes?

Anyway, we also get Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott) who represents the man of faith aspect to contrast Frankenstein and Igor's science. Again, if the movie had done more with this, that would have been interesting. Turpin's religion means there is more beyond death which then dictates how one should live and behave which is everything Frankenstein rails against. It also sets Frankenstein up as a person who refuses to be comforted by the idea of an afterlife and in fact considers it to be a kind of madness. All this stuff had it gotten more time would have been nice.

In terms of the acting, everyone is wasted. James McAvoy is a great actor with a surprisingly huge range. He's also very charming and likeable as a person based on his interviews. But he's not meant for this kind of Go Big Or Go Home, Full On Ham Acting. He's at his best when he's playing a role bolstered with complexity and thoughtfulness and Frankenstein, despite the heavy god vs. man, life vs. death ennui, is not that role. I don't think McAvoy had any idea of what to do with someone so one note other than just ACT LOUDLY. In contrast, Daniel Radcliffe seemed to have gotten the direction to act as normally and as naturally as possible which looked out of place.

It's frustrating to me because there seemed to be a better movie buried under all of the mess. I ended up reading the original screenplay Max Landis wrote for this movie and while not a great film, it's a better version than the one that got shot. It certainly gave more dimension to Turpin as well as Frankenstein which felt desperately needed and sadly seemed to have been sacrificed in the name of Loudness and Bombasity.
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aelfgyfu_mead: Being Human Alex Hal Tomaelfgyfu_mead on December 6th, 2015 11:12 pm (UTC)
That's a shame, but it totally agrees with what I've heard elsewhere. Thanks for saving me from seeing the movie. I was really interested in that cast, but I think I'd have been grossly disappointed, and with time so scarce, I hate seeing things that disappoint me.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on December 6th, 2015 11:40 pm (UTC)
I was really disappointed. I love the story of Frankenstein and I like pretty much all the actors who were in this film. When I first saw the trailer I got worried but I still held out hope that this would turn out okay. Sadly no.

The only reason why this movie was a good idea is that it gives James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe a chance to do fun interviews together: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Zx0Wmi2z2A