REVIEW: Victor Frankenstein

 After watching Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for the latest episode of The Movie Breakdown podcast, I thought it a good idea to watch the 2015 film, Victor Frankenstein.  When it came out, the trailers made it look like an updated copy that was trying to harness the energy of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr.  Even the movie posters had a resemblance.  Perhaps it was just marketing that was trying to lean into an established aesthetic.  Regardless of how they tried to present it, the end result is a dreadfully boring affair.

The movie starts off with Daniel Radcliffe's character, a hunchback who is enslaved by the circus.  When an accident happens, he shows off his knowledge of human anatomy and impresses medical student Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy).  After a circus chase sequence with more slow motion than you would expect, Frankenstein takes Radcliffe home and gives him the name Igor.  Frankenstein cures his hunchback and puts him in a brace that will help him learn to walk upright.  I thought this was going to mean throughout the film we would see Igor struggling to do this, but it seems as all they needed to show a few minutes before he is moving around as though nothing was ever wrong.

During the chase at the circus, someone gets mudered.  The police inspector Turpin (Andrew Turpin) is searching for Igor, with wanted posters up everywhere.  One would think that he would do something such as cutting his hair to evade being found, but Igor decides that having a shower is enough.  Now that he's had a wash, he's able to help Frankenstein with his experiments to use electricity to reanimate dead tissue.

An experiment with a monkey made of dead flesh doesn't go so great.  Igor's lovely friend from the circus, Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) connects with him, and don't you know love is now in the air.  She see's the disaster of the monkey experiment and doesn't quite like what Frankenstein is doing.  Neither does Turpin, who is viewing this through the lens of religion and sees these experiments as an abomination.

While the story moves on, I found that there was next to nothing actually connecting me to the film.  The characters weren't interesting at all.  Frankenstein was a bit of a nob, and Igor was incredibly bland.  Turpin was almost a cartoon character.  Perhaps Lorelei was the only actually intriguing character, but even then there really isn't much that comes from her in way of impactful story telling.

Many of the scenes that drive the plot forward feel very generic and forced.  Director Paul McGuigan wants tension between Frankenstein and Igor, and his methods of accomplishing that are inorganic and disconnected from how the film had been proceeding.  He also wants a deep emotional reason for Frankenstein wanting to create life, and the reveal and pay off for it are beyond cheesy and out of step from how the characters have been acting or how the tone of the film has been unfolding.

I think that both Radcliffe and McAvoy are great actors, but there isn't much for them to work with here.  The script keeps their characters very one dimensional, and at times you don't quite understand why they are behaving the way they are.  Everything is drab, and there are times when hiring great talent doesn't matter because there is nothing for them to actually work with.

As well, there are some odd stylistic choices.  As mentioned, there was a slow motion circus chase, but that shooting style disappears completely from the film.  Also at the beginning of the movie is a moment when Igor gets 'textbook vision,' which is about the best term I could use as he looks at injured Lorelei and anatomy diagrams are superimposed over her.  That style choice is then gone for almost the entire movie, only to show up at the very end when Igor doesn't know something that was actually his idea in the first place (I'm being vague so I don't spoil anything).

Ultimately, this film ended up being a big bomb in the box office.  It's opening weekend only scored it $2.4 million dollars, which was a massive embarrassment for 20th Century Fox.  The marketing was such that it looked like it didn't have its own identity.  It also really didn't seem fitting to what we would think of when we consider a film about Frankenstein and his monster.  This isn't a horrible movie, but it isn't good.  The biggest problem is that it feels like it doesn't know what it needs to be, and all it can provide is an unremarkable tale that has been told much better in the past.

Rating - 2 out of 4 stars