November 29, 2015

Movie Review: Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Have you ever seen a trailer and been absolutely convinced it was going to be a terrible movie? Sure you have, probably happens all the time. Now, have you ever seen a trailer for a movie you were sure was going to be terrible but still wanted to see it? I bet that happens a lot too. Finally, have you ever gone to one of those movies and found that you actually like it? It doesn’t have to be great, just that it defied those expectations you started with and you honestly enjoy it. Well, that happened with Victor Frankenstein. I was convinced it was going to be a jokey mess and left believing it was a genuinely good movie.

I guess the first thing to say is if you are expecting an accurate telling of the book or some manner of remake of the old Universal version, you will be pretty disappointed. Of course, you probably already knew that, since the trailers make it known that Igor is involved in this (he wasn’t in the book or most of the film incarnations). Still, better to warn you now, lest you be sore later. Frankly, I have no problem with it. What Victor Frankenstein is, is a surprisingly good film that takes cues from the classic tale and then twists them to be something different. Do things like this always work? No, not really, but it is interesting to see what other ideas can be brought to the table.

Victor Frankenstein was directed by Paul McGuigan, who has directed such films as Push, Lucky Number Slevin, and Wicker Park. He does a good job of giving this movie a look and feel all its own. It seems to have taken some cues from the Hammer films of the 1960’s, but it mostly stands on its own. Screenplay duties were handled by Max Landis, son of John Landis. This is his second film of the year (although this was filmed in 2013 and 2014) following American Ultra, he has also written the movie Chronicle. His screenplay is clever and puts a different spin on the Frankenstein story.

I am not trying to suggest that Victor Frankenstein is a classic movie, it isn’t really even a great one, but it is one that is worth spending some time with. The movie takes a different tactic, telling it from the perspective of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), who is portrayed as a disfigured hunchback, an orphan used and abused by a traveling circus. He is caged like the animals and let out to perform and be beaten by the other performers. The one thing that makes him somewhat indispensable to the circus is his interest in and self taught practice in medicine.

It is this medical expertise, and a good set of hands, that draws the attention of Dr. Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) one evening at the circus when an accident leaves a trapeze artist (Jessica Brown Findlay) near death in center ring. She also happens to be the object off Igor’s affection.

The movie does follow the familiar course of a Frankenstein movie. Victor steals parts to make his monster, the monster comes to life, bad things happen. What makes this movie interesting is the course it takes to get there and the portrayal of our main characters. For example, Igor is no mere assistant, he is a good chunk of the brains, plus he is the moral compass of the pair. He is a sweet and caring person who understands what it is like to be made fun of, bullied, and pushed around. On the other side, Victor Frankenstein is a twitchy, genius, mad doctor, a man built on ego.

I actually enjoyed how well these portrayals worked. The movie was fun, not terribly horrific, but it doesn’t shy away from it either. It takes the classic material and flips it around into something fresh that doesn’t betray the source, but doesn’t seek to be the source. It goes off in its own direction, blending comedy, horror, a dash of romance, and a twist on the familiar. Frankly, I am still surprised at how enjoyable it was.


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