CineMarterVictor Frankenstein - Fittingly, a Hacked-Together, Heartless Corpse of a Film
Directed by Paul McGuigan. Produced by John Davis. Written by Max Landis. Release date: November 25, 2015.
"You know this story." These are the first few words that are said in Victor Frankenstein, and it's a moment before anything follows. They get repeated later on in the film, too. Only a supremely confident movie - one that believes that it's telling a story we most certainly do not know - would make this sort of statement. And it does it twice! But confidence and arrogance are often confused, and I'm afraid that Victor Frankenstein is more the latter than the former. "You know this story" isn't an ironic statement, nor is it one that the film even attempts to circumvent. As soon as you hear it, it would be a more efficient use of your time to stop watching and do something else for a couple of hours. You do know this story.
For a while, it looks as though Victor Frankenstein will successfully change things around enough to keep itself interesting. It starts off with a no-name hunchback (Daniel Radcliffe) working in a circus, only to see its trapeze artist (Jessica Brown Findlay) fall and break her collarbone. With the help of a spectator, whom we later learn is the eponymous character (James McAvoy), the hunchback sets her bone and saves her life. Frankenstein later frees the hunchback, fixes his back, gives him a fake identity ("Igor"), and the two begin to work on reanimating various body parts until eventually trying to create an entire functional human being out of non-living parts.
Along the way, Igor pursues the trapeze artist, who also is granted an escape from the circus, and a religious police inspector (Andrew Scott) goes well out of his way in an attempt to stop Frankenstein and Igor's experiments. Why? Because it's an affront to God. The film attempts to moralize the experiments, presenting both opinions before eventually settling somewhere in the safety of the middle, so as to not offend anyone. How dare the movie have the gall to pick a side in the science vs. religion debate? It's only 2015, after all.
A plot we've seen before wouldn't be too much of a problem if Victor Frankenstein had something else going for it, but its plot is only where it begins to have trouble. So much of the film relies on James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and their chemistry together but forgets to give them much to do. McAvoy seems like he exists in his own headspace, Radcliffe is far too often too timid to do much on his own, and the two actors seem to be competing for who can care less about the project. McAvoy is just channeling Robert Downey, Jr., and Radcliffe is ... well, he's just doing as much as he can, which sadly isn't much. His one attempt at acting in the film comes from him having to hobble around like a hunchback, and that gets fixed 10 minutes in.