Told through the eyes of Igor, Victor Frankenstein isn’t a story about the monster, but about the monsters that made him.
Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), a hunchback at the circus, spends his days performing under the abusive hand of the circus director. After a mysterious man named Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) visits the circus, he returns to rescue Igor and offer him a job as his assistant.
Once under Victor’s roof, Igor learns of his plan to “create life out of death”. Skeptical, Igor goes along with the insane plan – partially because he’s curious and partially because he feels indebted to the man who saved him and gave him purpose.
Meanwhile, Victor’s mischief has drawn the attention of Inspector Turpin (Spectre and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott); an overzealous officer who thinks Victor is behind an ongoing case of the missing animal parts.
Victor and Igor’s scientific exploits eventually lead to the two men creating The Modern Prometheus aka Frankenstein.
The beginning of Victor Frankenstein is a fresh take on a story about science in the 1800’s and how it would be viewed by the general public. Most of it would scare people and they would cling to their religion as reasons to not push the boundaries of science.
However, the final act completely abandons that premise. Igor’s love interest, Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), sticks around for no reason other than to take Igor to a Ball and get kidnapped and then un-kidnapped later. Seriously, how did Igor learn to ballroom dance? He had a hunchback last week and somehow that back brace turned him into Fred Astaire.
The story abruptly turns Inspector Turpin from an investigator into a crazy person, complete with the trademark conspiracy theorist rambles and fidgety hands. One of the film’s best actors and interesting characters is reduced to a man with paranoid hysteria. I only have one question, why?
What puts the movie over-the-top, or off a cliff to be more exact, is the final showdown. For some reason it turns in a Michael Bay film during the big fight and everything explodes on contact. Everything! Explosions start going off everywhere like a scene from an 80’s action movie. At one point I was trying to figure out what wasn’t going to explode. It’s comical how tonally different the sequence is from the rest of the film.
Sadly, this film is a wasted James McAvoy performance. He’s really good as Victor Frankenstein. McAvoy plays his Victor right out of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock handbook – he’s a genius, aloof, and can’t stand to be around people he thinks can’t match his intellect or get in the way of whatever goal he currently has. Even with the Sherlock influence, McAvoy is a delight every time he’s onscreen. A Netflix series following a young Victor Frankenstein around with McAvoy as the lead could be a great television show.
Victor Frankenstein does its best to be original, but can’t stop itself from resurrecting the same old monster story we’ve seen for years. It’s kind of the same story, but this time with more explosions and slow-motion.