‘Victor Frankenstein’ movie review
By Jennifer Stefan, Contributor
Frankenstein is a title we’re all familiar with. It conjures images of pieced-together monsters and mad science, of dark nights and thunderstorms, of lightning and angry mobs. It’s the perfect monster story. Frankenstein crosses the lines of life and death, and forces a heavy examination of humanity. Needless to say, I walked into Victor Frankenstein expecting a story I had heard before. I did get a monster movie, but not the monster I expected.
Despite its name, Victor Frankenstein follows the story of his assistant, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). We find Igor, at the time a nameless hunchback, working as a clown and occasional doctor for a large London-based circus. Abused by the people around him, he finds himself drawn to anatomy and biology, burying himself in any related books he can get his hands on. In short, Igor’s brilliance is being wasted beneath face paint and bruises.
Circumstances introduce us to Victor (James McAvoy), a member of the upper class who is also extremely intelligent, not to mention attractive. Intrigued by Igor, he takes him in as his assistant to help further his mysterious work, usually involving questionably acquired organs and lots of morally grey areas.
This movie, while certainly not a complete retelling of the novel by Mary Shelley, wasn’t a terrible adaptation. It made some allowances and added some details, yet was still a monster movie at its core. In this case, however, the monster in the spotlight was Victor.
Director Paul McGuigan seemed to want to show us a more human side to those involved, instead of just the mad scientists we have all heard about. He succeeded in that, as I felt myself sympathizing with Victor even as his decisions became more and more irrational. Even though I knew how it was all going to end, I was still on his side. The focus on him as a person, instead of him as a mad scientist, made for a more intriguing story.
While the actors are excellent in their roles, I found myself questioning how necessary the key players in all this are. Alongside Victor and Igor are Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), Igor’s love interest; Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott), the incredibly religious Scotland Yard inspector looking into Victor’s questionable activities; and Finnegan (Freddie Fox), a fellow classmate of Victor’s who is more than willing to throw money at Victor’s projects. All these people are unique in their own right, but that feels lost in pursuit of the main story. They feel flat, acting only in the interest of fueling the plot.
Even so, I was pretty invested in this film from beginning to end. I, like most of us, already knew the story, but was excited to see it reborn for a modern audience. There was a bit of disappointment as it didn’t follow Mary Shelley’s vision as completely as it could, feeling more like a prequel than anything. The questions of immortality and whether we should bring the dead back to life are critical to the story and didn’t fade to the background with this new rendition. Even while I held troubled thoughts on these topics, I still celebrated Victor and Igor’s breakthroughs. The viewer is forced to consider their stance on this, as characters around the protagonists begin to question them too.
In the end, Victor Frankenstein provided enough gritty humour, action, and likeable characters to make for a satisfying story. As movies go, I don’t really think it’s necessary to see on the big screen. If you want a primer on a well-known story though, or are a fan of British actors, Victor Frankenstein is a great way to fill an evening.