Victor Frankenstein is Mediocrity at Its Best

Suzanna Reviews Victor Frankenstein

I know it’s going to be an interesting day when my first Google search is “psychopath vs sociopath”.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has spawned many movie adaptations, with McGuigan’s Victor Frankenstein being the latest incarnation. Every movie has different degrees of faithfulness to the novel. I would say this one is “loosely based”.

Really loosely.

The movie is told from the point of view of Igor, Frankenstein’s assistant. Igor never existed in the book and Daniel Radcliffe’s character, technically, isn’t Igor, either.

victor-frankenstein-daniel-radcliffe-james-mcavoy-movie-trailer-images-screenshots-69
Daniel Radcliffe as Igor

Frankenstein goes to a circus to steal animal parts when he sees Lorelei, a beautiful trapeze artist, fall and break her collar bone. Being a medical student, he rushes to her side, only to find the hunchbacked clown already there examining her.

Frankenstein sees that her collar bone is broken, preventing her from breathing, and declares there’s nothing he can do. He doesn’t have the proper tools and she wouldn’t survive the trip to the hospital. The hunchback snatches up Frankenstein’s beloved pocket watch and uses it to pop the collar bone back into place, thereby allowing Lorelei to breathe. This act reveals a genius hiding behind grease paint, so Frankenstein helps him to escape the circus.

Once they reach Frankenstein’s flat, Victor proves that the hump is really an abscess during a rough procedure where he treats the unnamed circus freak like he’s a pound of flesh to be manipulated. He leaves a befuddled, unnamed man “outside the circus and standing up” to bathe and dress in an absent flatmate’s clothes while Victor descends to his laboratory.

The flatmate, an opium addict who’s never around, is named Igor and it’s that name the once-hunchback assumes at Victor’s instruction. Igor never chooses his own name or his own clothes and, throughout the bulk of the film, is controlled and manipulated by the manic, sociopathic Victor Frankenstein.

Lorelei recovers and leaves the circus, coming under the patronage of a homosexual gentleman who wants to put on a good show by parading around London with his “mistress”. Igor meets Lorelei again and the two develop a friendship that grows into romance. Lorelei counsels Igor to be his own man and stand up to his new friend. She tells him to never allow anyone to control him again.

The movie is fast-paced and action-packed. The director, Paul McGuigan, tries to humanize Victor Frankenstein with a backstory involving childhood loss. It doesn’t do much. If anything, it only made me feel a little sorry for him while waiting for Igor to just punch Victor in his crazy face.

The best parts of the film were, one, seeing Daniel Radcliffe get further away from his Harry Potter typecast. He’s a good actor (I loved him in Woman in Black) and he should get good roles.

Secondly, it was another film with Andrew Scott. If you’re familiar with BBC’s Sherlock, then you know Andrew Scott as the insane Moriarty. He was FANTASTIC in Sherlock. He also played C in the latest Bond flick.

In Victor Frankenstein, Scott plays Inspector Turpin, Scotland Yard’s best detective. Driven by deep religious fervor, Inspector Turpin tries to stop Frankenstein but has no evidence for an arrest. He follows Frankenstein all the way to Scotland and pays a heavy price for his trouble.

James McAvoy and Andrew Scott in Victor Frankenstein
James McAvoy and Andrew Scott in Victor Frankenstein

Third and finally, the movie contains a reference to Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, which is a wonderful comedy that knows it’s a comedy. It was the best exchange in all the dialogue of Victor Frankenstein, but I might be a little biased about that.

I should probably step in at this point to comment on James McAvoy’s performance. I have always liked McAvoy and I felt he did the best he could with the script he was given. I liked how he handled Inspector Turpin’s visit to Frankenstein’s flat but he was still outshone by Scott’s superior performance.

The problems with the film aren’t about acting. That was prevented by casting good actors. The problems are in the story.

One big problem is the point of view. Igor is supposed to be telling the tale. However, things happen at the end that Igor didn’t see because he was either unconscious or not in the room and we hear dialogue that he couldn’t have heard.

The second problem is that Victor doesn’t grow as a character. He has a revelation in the climax but it doesn’t affect him as a person. Perhaps his brand of crazy is ingrained too deeply but I’m cynical enough to wonder if McGuigan only wanted to leave room for a sequel. Hollywood never let something like meaningful plot and character development keep them from a cash cow, after all.

My third problem is that the only females with speaking parts, all three of them, serve no purpose other than as props. Even Lorelei is only there for Igor’s development. I really hate that. And I think it was a waste of Jessica Brown Findlay’s talents and the time of the two other actresses.

Finally, the cinematography and sets were so reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes that I actually had to make sure that I wasn’t confused about who directed which. And if I see one more movie do slow-motion action, I think I might throw my popcorn at the screen.

If you want to go see Victor Frankenstein, then go to a discount theater or wait for it to come out on DVD. In the long list of Frankenstein flicks, this is a mediocre contribution, despite the valiant efforts of the people playing the parts.

Did you see the movie? What were your thoughts?

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