“This is not life”
Released last year, Victor Frankenstein has the ignominy of being something of a flop, a little surprising when you consider it is loaded with Brit talent like James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and was directed by Sherlock alum Paul McGuigan. But as many have learned, not least Dr Frankenstein himself, reanimating old things doesn’t always go smoothly.
Writer Max Landis’ new spin on Mary Shelley’s classic is that the story is told from (the non-canonical) Igor’s perspective, reframing the ‘hunchback assistant’ as something much more nuanced and offering a fresh set of eyes on their scientific endeavours. Here, McAvoy’s Victor is a manic medical student who rescues Radcliffe’s Igor from an undignified life as a circus freak and quite literally gives him a new lease of life as his collaborator.
Captivated by his experiment on the boundaries between life and death, Igor becomes a willing participant but as the authorities edge ever closer to discerning the terrible truth of their actions, yadda yadda. You see that this really isn’t that imaginative a take on the Frankenstein story at all and though the film is entirely watchable, it’s also ultimately rather dull, lacking any real sense of vibrancy in what it brings to the classic tale.
What it does have is McAvoy eating the scenery and then some in a wildly over-zealous take on the mad scientist, something exacerbated by having Andrew Scott in the cast as the detective chasing them down. There’s a climactic scene where they face off and you’re uncomfortably reminded of how much better the latter can do chillingly exaggerated rage. McAvoy is much better than this but there’s no redeeming him from this monstrosity.
Radcliffe fares a little better in the subtler role of Igor, conflicted from the off about the nature of their work and caught between his new friend and his potential new love in the form of Jessica Brown Findlay’s Lorelei, a character of whom more could have been made. Pulling on those Sherlock connections, Louise Brealey and Mark Gatiss pop up in tiny cameos, and the likes of Freddie Fox, Charles Dance and Daniel Mays have minor roles but by and large, this is one Frankenstein to leave on the operating table.