a critiQal film review Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Plot: Radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) and his equally brilliant protege Igor Strausman (Radcliffe) share a noble vision of aiding humanity through their groundbreaking research into immortality. But Victor’s experiments go too far, and his obsession has horrifying consequences. Only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation.

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  • ...could have been a fascinating study of Victor's descent into madness, but instead it's just a muddled mess.

Perusing films to watch, we ran across Victor Frankenstein…and were surprised to realize neither of us had ever seen this one.  Would Daniel Radcliffe be able to kickstart his career after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) with a smart new take on the classic Frankenstein story? Or would there be nothing to this new adaptation, and he would simply have to try again with something else?

Daniel Radcliffe takes the lead in Victor Frankenstein, and when viewers first see him – as a hunchback in a circus – they may be intrigued as to where the film is going.  Surprisingly, he does do a decent job distinguishing himself, but viewers will be hard-pressed not to see his character in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (and the other films in that series) in everything he does.  It’s too bad, really, as if this performance can’t get that image out of viewer’s mind, what hope is there for him to do anything but re-live Harry over and over again?

James McAvoy is obviously having the most fun in Victor Frankenstein.  As the obsessed (not quite) doctor, he lets his crazy run wild, and he’s easily the most entertaining part of the film.  More of a study in his descent into madness (as seen from Igor’s perspective) rather than really being about the monster, Victor Frankenstein works (at least a little) on that level thanks mostly to McAvoy’s performance.

Surprisingly, rather than focusing on the man himself (or even his monster), Victor Frankenstein, instead, is all about Igor.  As narrator and main character, the film showcases the story from Igor’s perspective.  While this is an interesting take on the idea, it isn’t really why people come to see a Frankenstein movie.  If you’re going to focus on Igor, why not call the film, oh, Igor, possibly?  That would bring people in with different expectations, and it wouldn’t be as disappointing to see so little of the monster.

When the monster finally does appear in Victor Frankenstein, it seems to be too little, too late.   By then, the movie has kind of fallen apart, thanks to a crazed monkey and lots of subplots that kind of fall apart by the wayside.  By the time the monster himself appears, the film has degenerated into just another action flick – albeit an oddly demented one.  It’s too bad, as the monster himself is pretty interesting, but his short time on-screen is so waylaid by what’s come before that viewers won’t even find him that interesting.

While Victor Frankenstein has its moments, it seems to have a hard time trying to figure out its own perspective.  Is the story supposed to be about Igor watching Victor’s descent into madness, helpless to stop it?  Or is it more about man’s limits and what happens when he tries to overreach?  Or, is it about a misunderstood nice guy with a deformity that is just trying to find his way a world so foreign to him?  Or, is it just another creature feature starring the monster as the bad guy?  It can’t decide.

If it had tried a bit harder, Victor Frankenstein could have been a fascinating study of Victor’s descent into madness.  Instead, it just comes out as a muddled mess, with some over-the-top acting along the way..

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