A Cobbled Mess
There are so many different versions of the tale of “Frankenstein”. So many, that it’s hard to really come up with something fresh surrounding the tale. We’ve had films trying to stick close and true to the original Mary Shelly novel ,like the Kenneth Branagh directed “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein” that I really do appreciate, or films that try to go after the more classical Universal, Boris Karloff “Frankenstein” approach from the 1930s. Or, we get something totally off the beaten path with “I, Frankenstein” (which has almost nothing to do with the character). Here screenwriter Max Landis and director Paul McGuigan try to create a fresh update on the story managing to blend together elements from the original novel and some new material that proves to be interesting. Yet the movie proves to be unbalanced and unsure of itself. While there is a great deal of fun to be had, McGuigan’s direction is too all over the place to make a tonally structured film. I was enjoying it until the runtime taxed on and the action became dull and uninteresting.
The story of “Victor Frankenstein” is more of the story of Igor. The movie opens with a narration of the future partner of Victor Frankenstein as Igor starts off as a mistreated circus freak without a name. After impressing Victor Frankenstein at a circus event, he is freed by the young wealthy health major. The two begin work on Frankenstein’s dream and life’s work. Feeling that he owes a debt to Victor, Igor challenges his own morals in creating life even if they are looked at as monsters.
Perhaps the title is a little misleading but the story is very much told through Igor’s eyes, played by Daniel Radcliffe. There is a lot pain in his character from his past. It’s a shame his character isn’t explored more. But that’s not the type of film “Victor Frankenstein” is.
So what is it? That’s where the issues of “Victor Frankenstein” come in. For a while I was having quite a bit of fun. Cheap fun, but fun none the less. At times “Victor Frankenstein” plays like a fun B-movie, the type “I, Frankenstein” was aiming for (but missed it’s mark). McGuigan’s style is a subpar attempt mimicking at Guy Richie’s Victorian Era modernistic update of the “Sherlock Holmes” character. There is a scene where Victor breaks Igor out from the circus which devolves into a big long chase scene ripped straight out of a Guy Ritchie production. Which isn’t an issue, it works with the B-movie style.
However, Max Landis’s script has a lot more ideas then just B-movie action and plotting. The tragedy of Frankenstein and Igor, and their friendship. There is discussions of theology, God, and what is life? Some of this are some really strong ideas. McGuigan crafts a film though that isn’t so interested in exploring those themes and instead keeps them only at the surface. This presents tonal issues. There can be high octane movies that explore compelling themes and craft their movie around them. “Victor Frankenstein” sacrifices it’s big brain for something far less.
“Victor Frankenstein” may miss out on the potential of its script but attempts to make up for that with fun. Some of the action is exciting, and Radcliffe and James McAvoy (as Victor Frankenstein) are very appealing leads. The pair of them have fantastic chemistry on screen with McAvoy chewing up every moment. However, as the movie’s runtime continues to press on the story becomes tiring, and the film begins to drag. “Victor Frankenstein” is far too long. The ending becomes increasingly more and more ridiculous to the point where it goes from B-movie fun to live action cartoon.
I don’t believe this is as bad as some make it out to be. I think there is a good deal of fun to be had at certain points throughout the film. There is an audience for this type of film and there isn’t anything wrong with that. For me the movie falls apart under key points and goes on for far too long amongst a few other issues. James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are terrific leads; it’s a shame this vehicle didn’t quite reach its destination.