“It’s alive!” is perhaps one of the most famous proclamations in popular culture, but after countless attempts to revive Mary Shelly’s 19th-century monster for modern audiences, not to mention last years’ dreadful I, Frankenstein, the most appropriate follow-up to that very quote comes from the mouth of James McAvoy in this year’s Victor Frankenstein, which the title character bluntly states, “Isn’t it obvious?”
Director Paul McGuigan impressively crafts a Sherlock-ian Victorian-era village remnant of his brief stint on BBC’s Sherlock series – though it’s civilized atmosphere should’ve been offed much sooner in favor to the brief climax’s eerily secluded stone castle. Yet, if there’s a dominant creative force at work here it would’ve been found in Max Landis’ script, which 20th Century likely employed to supply the same revision to the fabled monster tale as he did to the superhero and action genre with Chronicle and American Ultra, respectively.
In the film’s opening minutes this fresh prospective comes to life, as Victor (McAvoy) and Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), escape from the circus after Frankenstein witnesses the anatomy-savvy hunchback save Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), a beautiful trapeze artist and ignored love interest, after a deathly fall. Super imposed x-rays of bone structure in a blueprint-like effect, slow motion fireworks, freaks with fire-blowing and knife-throwing abilities all make for an inspired opening sequence, which unfortunately fails to prevail into the ensuing 110-minutes runtime.
Trading horror for drama, which was likely not the smartest move to begin with, traditionally places characters over plot. McAvoy and Radcliffe are fully invested; one of the most memorable scenes being an increasingly drunken night spent fathoming ideas for the eventually famous Frankenstein’s monster. Radcliffe in particular does a commendable job in not only smoothing the introduction of a new character but also carrying the story as the new protagonist as well. The actor commits to Igor’s bent posture, and even when healed he continues to slowly find his spine so to speak—his solemn eyes further illustrating his abused character; great casting, and even better performance.
The same, however, though not for a lack of effort on the actors’ part, can’t be said for the rest of the supporting roles. Andrew Scott as an Inspector investigating the missing animal parts around town, supplies the interesting notion of no “life” in Victor’s reanimation experiments. He also mentions his deceased wife, which would have undoubtedly lead to opportune character and supporting thematic discussions, especially considering his religious background. Similarly, Finnegan (played by punch-able face of Freddie Fox) acts as the story’s main antagonist, a wealthy investor with alterative motives for Victor’s discoveries. Yet, he’s given just as much attention as the aforementioned Inspector, and for all his talk about his powerful family and how this knowledge will benefit them – Finnegan is supposedly the only member of said clan as far as we can see at least.
What’s worse is that anyone who genuinely seeks more about these characters will likely have to wait for the proposed sequel that shouldn’t come. But I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see what the Hollywood lightning bolt will bring back to life next.
Victor Frankenstein receives a 2/5