Movie Review: “Victor Frankenstein” Has a Strong Foundation Which Quickly Crumbles

The first few segments of Victor Frankenstein are very promising. Daniel Radcliffe is a nameless clown in a London circus. He begins a moving narration about his desire to practice medicine and we see countless sketches and diagrams that he spends his free time creating. The images layer the screen and while at first the effect is used to grip the audience, the over use of the effect becomes repetitive. Fans of BBC‘s series Sherlock will recognize the concept from episodes when it is used to show Sherlock’s thought patterns. Four of the series episodes were directed by this film’s director, Paul McGuigan. Radcliffe, along with a circus spectator, save a beautiful female acrobat who falls from her perch during the show. The spectator is Victor Frankenstein and he helps Radcliffe to escape the circus.

The story spins predictably from there. Of course the woman from the circus is saved and of course Radcliffe (now named Igor thanks to Frankenstein), runs into her at a party. Of course they connect, and Frankenstein leads Igor into his mad quest to create a living monster and yada, yada, yada. It is quickly apparent that one of the film’s numerous faults is that it is poorly named. The story is clearly Igor’s, not Victor’s.

One is left puzzling why such incredible set design, impeccable costumes, glorious original music scored by Craig Armstrong, and many good performances are wasted on this script which feels torn from the dregs of a rotting barrel. Long segments of the film are based on dialog that alternates between under and over informing viewers. It either states a point that we could have surmised visually or digresses into areas that aren’t necessary. The relationships between Igor and his love interest and Igor and Frankenstein are stilted and lack any sense of chemistry from the actors.

While Radcliffe gives a touching performance, McAvoy’s is over the top. James McAvoy is full throttle throughout the film. His performance would be much better suited for stage. Andrew Scott has proven his chops as Moriarty on Sherlock and has been aptly rewarded for said work. Unfortunately his talent is wasted as Inspector Turpin. The scenes with him are cloying, poorly paced and stereotypical.

For a more compelling Frankenstein story try the Showtime series Penny Dreadful (Season 1). In it is a re-imaging of what life might be life for Frankenstein in a much more effective manner.

Director Paul McGuigan peppers the screen with actors from his more successful directing gig on the BBC show Sherlock. None have major parts but it is fun to spot Molly (Lousie Brealey) and Myncroft (Mark Gatiss) in bit parts. If only McGuigan could have brought some of the energy, crispness and intelligence of Sherlock to this film it could have been worth recommending.

My Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Director: Paul McGuigan
Writer: Max Landis
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Andrew Scott
Runtime: 110 minutes
Release Date: November 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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