Led astray by a promising pedigree, I looked forward to “Victor Frankenstein.” Directed by Paul McGuigan, who directs television’s “Sherlock,” and starring James McAvoy, Daniel Craig and Andrew Scott (who plays Moriarty on the aforementioned “Sherlock,”) this film nevertheless most closely resembled the “Frankenstein” tale in that it was itself a grotesque monster of ill-fitting parts, sewn crudely together with big, ugly seams.
Like Sherlock Holmes, Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) is portrayed as a brilliant egomaniac, and the film’s twist is that we also get to learn more about Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). A pitiful but intelligent hunchback living a sad, undignified life in the circus, he is rescued by Frankenstein when his natural talents for surgery are put to use saving the beautiful acrobat for whom he pines (Jessica Brown Findlay).
As the men escape in an improbable action sequence shoehorned into the story a circus goon is killed, and this puts detective and religious zealot Andrew Scott on the trail of our brilliant, short scientists and their misbegotten plans to electrocute things back to life. Beginning with a gross monkey creature, Frankenstein and Igor demonstrate their work at the Royal College of Medicine, attracting the attention of a wealthy, powerful and extremely snide classmate who, with sinister speed and enthusiasm, offers to bankroll the rest of their bad, dangerous plans for what we can only assume are totally altruistic reasons.
And it is in the middle part of this silly film that the script really comes apart. Igor and Frankenstein’s relationship, which is the only thing that makes this story different from a straight Frankenstein story, is completely inconsistent. They agree and disagree at random, and the weakness of the writing really shows in their scenes.
I expected this to be silly in a light-horror way. They were clearly going for the feeling of the entertaining Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies, but failed to deliver the comic punch or physical bravado those have. “Victor Frankenstein” was silly in an unwatchable way. I’m all for making up backstory to carve an extra movie out of something we already know, but this story keeps going to its regular ending anyway, and is indescribably anticlimactic.
I must admit the set for the gothic castle where Frankenstein’s monster is eventually created is classic and awesome. But they had to rush through the end because we’d already watched a whole movie about Igor. Seeing the lightning crackle and snap, you can’t help but wish for a normal Frankenstein story, or just to watch one that’s already been made. And if we wanted to learn more about young Frankenstein, we’d all be much better off watching “Young Frankenstein.”
There is one moment when this film acknowledges “Young Frankenstein,” in which Victor corrects the pronunciation of his last name, like Gene Wilder does in the Mel Brooks film. It’s a glorious moment, and gives the film a quickly extinguished glimmer of hope. The whole film should have just gone for funny, because no one could take this seriously.
“Victor Frankenstein” is currently available to rent.
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