Victor Frankenstein (2015)

*. I had a bad feeling about this one as it got started. The look was obviously borrowed from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, something that I think everyone noticed immediately (it was widely remarked upon by reviewers). This even extended to changing the setting of the story from Shelley’s eighteenth-century Europe to Victorian England (Holmes’s stomping grounds). There’s also (and this is more by way of trivia) a connection to the television series Sherlock, which shares many cast members and one of its directors (Paul McGuigan) with this film.
*. Did the Frankenstein story need this kind of treatment? It’s a look we’re familiar with now so in a way it’s not even that fresh an interpretation. Then there’s the way the title is introduced. Daniel Radcliffe (Igor) pursues James McAvoy, who he has just met, and asks him “Sir, please, may I know your name?” McAvoy turns and, without saying anything, the title “Victor Frankenstein” appears. Oh, please.
*. Also part of the bad start: it turns out Igor, who works as a clown in the circus, isn’t a real hunchback but only has an abscess. He has also, remarkably, trained himself into becoming a first-class doctor (though he hasn’t got as far as finding out for himself that he isn’t really a hunchback yet).
*. So, yes, things really get off on the wrong foot. I wonder if a lot of people who didn’t like it (which was most people, based on its reviews and box office) gave it much of a chance after this. They should have, because it gets better.
*. What helps the most are the two leads, who do much to redeem the usual nonsense. I wasn’t as blown away by McAvoy in Split, the multiple-personality thriller, as others were, but I think he’s very good here. He’s even more watchable than the monster, when it finally gets going.
*. The script he has to work with isn’t great, but I don’t know how much could have been done with such worn material. As the narration points out at the beginning, we all know the story. And when you think of it, it’s not like there have been a lot of well-written Frankenstein movies in the past. The old story has been filmed countless times, but after the classic Universal appearances not often with great results. In fact, quite often with results that have been just plain awful. So what standard are we judging this one by?
*. Much of the script just sort of fizzles. Victor has a back story involving a brother Henry that McAvoy only barely manages to make me go along with. But there’s also a cynical aristocrat that we don’t get enough of, a devout police investigator on the trail who the movie doesn’t know what to do with, and a love interest for Igor who is just, miraculously, there. Some interesting elements are assembled, but they aren’t brought to life.

*. The monster, or really two monsters, are pretty good. Victor’s first crack at things is a chimp-like creature that is, at least, somewhat original and not what I was expecting. And the final creature is big and sort of waxy, which is what I guess a monster made out of spare parts would look like. He doesn’t have much to do, as he just shows up at the end and the movie really isn’t about him at all.
*. Instead, it’s more about the relationship between the two leads, with Victor claiming Igor as his greatest creation. This was sort of interesting, but I thought a bit presumptuous on Victor’s part. Sure he rescues Igor from the circus and drains his abscess. In that sense he saves his life. But does he create Igor? Then the two are partners in the monster’s creation. Maybe Victor’s arrogant attitude is just part of his character, and what will, the end suggests, keep leading him on to further experiments.
*. Not a great movie, but in my opinion a slightly better than average Frankenstein movie. It does try to do something a little different with the old story, and while that part doesn’t work very well there’s enough here to make it worth watching.

9 thoughts on “Victor Frankenstein (2015)

  1. Bookstooge

    I became a fan of McAvoy through his role in the mini-series Children of Dune. Then it was cemented with the X movies.

    That being said, I don’t watch everything with him in it. Split for example. I was done with Shyamalan by that time (or however it is spelled) so he was just an unfortunate collateral damage.

    As for Radcliffe, I have not seen him in anything after Harry Potter that I would qualify as a good movie. Horns and Guns Akimbo were enough for me to avoid him now.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I thought Split was just OK. McAvoy was good in it. Thought Radcliffe was decent in The Woman in Black. I doubt you’d like this much, but those two are the reason it’s worth watching.

  2. Fraggle

    I have a soft spot for the Frankenstein story since seeing the Boris Karloff one, so much pathos for the monster, though I never thought of him as that. The other portrayal I really liked was by Rory Kinnear in the TV series Penny Dreadful. (Did you see that ever? Excellent series. Anyway I can live without this one I think.

  3. Riders of Skaith

    a) I really thought that was Gerard Butler in that first picture for a minute.

    b) Interestingly enough, one of the best overall portrayals of Frankenstein’s Monster is done in….Van Helsing.


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