Perhaps should have stayed dead.
released 11 April 2015 | 12 | Blu- ray/ DVD
Director Paul McGuigan
Cast Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy,
Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott
Mary Shelley’s genre-catalysing classic work of literature has been given the electrode rebirth treatment so many times through the years that any new take needs to offer something truly fresh, or it’ll come off smelling rotten and burned to a crisp. Sadly, despite boasting a promising creative team on both sides of the camera, Victor Frankenstein must unfortunately shamble off to a place among the tarnished, the stinking and the lacklustre.
It was all so full of promise, with Daniel Radcliffe, who’s found interesting work in his post- Potter career, paired with James McAvoy, someone who usually delivers sparky, engaged performances. Bolt on a script from Chronicle’s Max Landis, no stranger to putting a new spin on seemingly wellworn concepts, and add the eye of Paul McGuigan, a director of mixed success on the big screen who’s earned hefty praise for TV’s Sherlock... Surely together they can cook up something of a postmodern Prometheus? The answer, regrettably, is no.
McAvoy and Radcliffe give it their all, trying to make invigorating versions of Victor Frankenstein ( a typically wild intellectual brought low by his own ambitions) and assistant Igor ( his hunched back quickly solved in this instance), who meet unexpectedly and form a dangerous partnership. Yet the tweaks to their characters – particularly Radcliffe’s Igor, who starts as a circus freak who’s also taught himself anatomy – feel like they’ve barely moved past the first new idea or two, and rarely seem to blend with the film’s other notions. There’s a real grab- bag of concepts on display here: Frankenstein has daddy issues; the duo’s early experiments with a chimpanzee make a stab at broad comedy; and the calculating, pious police inspector ( Andrew “Moriarty” Scott, initially dialling down the cackle in favour of buttoned- down) wants to channel the usual pitchforkwielding villagers. It just. Doesn’t. Work. Victor Frankenstein is neither as fun as it seems to think it is, nor as serious as it intends to be during the predictably monstrous climax.
Talking of Scott, McGuigan’s stylistic choices mean this initially feels like a Sherlock spin- off – all whizzy graphical overlays for the Science Bits and the way the title character is introduced. The show’s cast are also dotted about, with Mark Gatiss ( Mycroft), Louise Brealey ( Molly) and Andrew Petrie ( who guest- starred in one episode) all showing up. If you were to play a drinking game about people or ideas borrowed from Sherlock during the early parts of the film, you’d be slurring your words after half an hour.
All involved clearly wanted to make it work more smoothly than it does, but they just can’t seem to
As missed opportunities go, one of the biggest of last year
find the right spark. Landis’s script largely gives Radcliffe and McAvoy ham to chew on, and when you throw in nods to better versions of the story, such as James Whale’s 1931 effort and Mel Brooks’s Young
Frankenstein ( listen out for someone mis- pronouncing the doctor’s name), you’re only going to pale in comparison. And when the script tries to shoehorn in real emotion and explore Victor’s drives, it sits uneasily with all the wackiness, coming across as sentimental and false. Plus, despite an obvious yearning to be as active and modern- feeling as, say, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, the film gives the likes of Jessica Brown Findlay ( who plays Igor’s acrobat love interest, Lorelei) nothing to do. By the time it rushes to the big, effects- laden conclusion, you’ll have ceased caring.
What does work? Well, some of the production design is impressive, with the doctor’s lab particularly funky, full of gears and scientific equipment. But even that’s let down by the fact that the London backgrounds are murky muddles, and rarely look like a good use of CG. Scott is largely good value, and Charles Dance makes an impact in a small yet pivotal role. But as missed opportunities go, this was one of the biggest to hit cinema screens last year – failing to come alive despite everything its different parts brought to it.
Extras A Making Of and photo galleries of production designs and on- set photography feel like the least they could have done – and they did. The Blu- ray release adds an assortment of deleted scenes ( 14 minutes). James White
The name of Victor’s brother, Henry, is a nod to the name of the doctor in 1931’ s classic film adaptation.
The hospital’s new cleaners were rubbish.
“This rice pudding hasn’t worked!”