In this world of reboots, remakes and sequels, it’s nice to find something original. Something fresh. Do you know what I mean? There’s nothing like the feeling of pure cinematic joy deep inside when you find one of those rare gems that tells a story you’ve never heard before, or even tells a familiar story in such a unique way that you’re still on the edge of your seat throughout. It just so happens that isn’t what’s on offer with Paul McGuigan’s disappointingly bland Victor Frankenstein, which is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.
Less the re-imagining it marketed itself as and more a re-tread of old ground, Victor Frankenstein tells the familiar story of the iconic mad scientist (James McAvoy) and his assistant Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). Sharing a passion for medical science, the pair begin a project to try and create life from death – obviously leading to the creation of the famous monster. So what do McGuigan and writer Max Landis do to try and make this original? They tell the story from Igor’s perspective. Starting with his dark origins in the circus, we watch as he becomes Frankenstein’s little bitch. Fans of Mary Shelley’s legendary novel Frankenstein will instantly recognise this isn’t a straight-up adaptation of her work – Igor wasn’t in the book. No, this is a prequel/reboot/reimagining/something. I don’t know.
Whatever it is, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The story is, of course, predictable – and the big “It’s alive!” moment isn’t met with jaws-on-the-floor like I’m sure it was in the 1931 film. Now, it’s become such a spoofed moment, it has no longer got any dramatic weight. The story is predictable from start to finish, and the thinly-written antagonist Inspector Turpin (Sherlock’s Andrew Scott) doesn’t help stop this film from being devoured alive by its own clichés. Good direction from Paul McGuigan could’ve elevated this film to being something more than just another Frankenstein movie, but with his futile attempts to create an edgy, near-steampunk adaptation similar to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, he’s lost sight of anything else. Like making a good film…
So do the cast help it at all? Meh. McAvoy hams it up as the mad scientist while occasionally struggling to hide his Scottish accent – weirdly a problem he’s very rarely had in the past. Maybe his heart just wasn’t in this? And Radcliffe, the man we often forget exists, just stumbles around confused. Although these are arguably characteristics of his character, they seem genuine. But anyone would look confused acting alongside a CGI monster-chimpanzee named Gordon. Yes, Frankenstein creates a monster-chimpanzee who obviously escapes and wreaks havoc. This film is like one of Frankstein’s creatures in itself – it is a monster made up of lots of horrible parts.
Victor Frankenstein is not a good film, my friends. McAvoy probably just needed something to do while he waited for the next X-Men and Radcliffe…he probably just needed something to do generally. But fans of the pair might find something to like here. And if you’re a hipster/steampunk, you might like the old clothes and whatnot. But anyone else will struggle to find much to like here. The CGI is pretty mediocre, the acting is sub-par, the script is crammed full of cliché and the direction is aimless. But it tries, and you can’t take that away from it. Like I was always told as a child, it isn’t all about winning – it’s the taking part that matters. With some films, you can tell that nobody involved has made any effort and it’s hard to be kind about them. Something about this just suggests they’ve tried. And although they’ve failed pretty miserably, at least a little bit of effort is in it.
On the whole, Victor Frankenstein is an instantly forgettable and completely unoriginal ‘creature feature’ that doesn’t have very much going for it at all. 1/5.
Victor Frankenstein at CeX
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