by T. Mack
Last year, two actors I adore were going to be in a movie together and I was incredibly excited to see it for that reason. Then time came around for the film to come out and I completely forgot about it. Oops! In my defense, it was Thanksgiving weekend, which in my family is about food, not films. I meant to come back around to the movie eventually but it bombed at the box office, was a critical flop, and disappeared from the spotlight pretty quickly. Recently, I was reminded of the film and finally sat down to take a look at it.
Victor Frankenstein sells itself as a new twist on an old tale, which we’ve all seen many times before: Victor Frankenstein and his trusty sidekick, Igor, attempt to create life from death. When they succeed, misery, death and destruction follow. This film is the same tale. As a matter of fact, the first line in the movie is a declaration to the viewer, “You know this story.” However, this movie focuses more on the relationship between the two collaborators and their time creating the monster than what happens after their creation is brought to life. Rather than being a movie about Frankenstein’s monster, this movie is about Frankenstein and his best friend, Igor.
This film has a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made less than $6 million in the domestic box office during its time in theaters. By all evidence, this is a terrible movie. But I didn’t really find it such.
I do have to admit that I am a bit biased in favor of the film going in. It stars James McAvoy (yum!) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry!) as well as Andrew Scott (Moriarti!!!). Getting to watch those three actors together in a single film is just fun for me. So even before we consider the story, the setting, the look, feel, or plot of the movie, I already like it to a certain degree.
The actors, who are all excellent, have great chemistry together. Their characters all have an intense passion that is admirable and entertaining to watch, even when it’s misplaced. The basic story is one we’ve seen countless times, but we obviously know that going in. In my opinion, to expect anything different is the fault of the viewer, not the film. And to be fair, there is a new take on how Victor and Igor come to know each other and work together. That was an intriguing element that I rather enjoyed. The film offered an interesting visual spectacle as well. We are shown the world through the eyes of the two main characters, who both see the anatomy of things in a similar way, which opens the door for their collaboration.
I also found that I was quite drawn in at the end of the film. Things get really intense when it comes time for the monster to come to life and I really didn’t know who would make it and who wouldn’t. Even though I was sitting at my desk, in my living room, with my kid watching YouTube videos in the background, the movie’s climax made me feel its intensity and I held my breath more than once.
The movie isn’t perfect. It is, as we’re told, a story we already know. So there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in it. The pacing is odd and the timing within the film feels off. I was never quite sure how much time passed from scene to scene. Days? Weeks? Months? One part in particular has the two main characters separated for a time. I had difficulty understanding just how long that had been. This was bad because that timing was relevant to the what happened during the remainder of the film. And speaking of the film’s ending, I have to address the fact that the movie wimps out of doing what needs to be done at the end of this film. There is a certain amount of tragedy that comes with this tale and they just went ahead and took it out. If you’re going to tell the same story we’ve seen a million times, don’t suddenly wuss out at the end. It’s not fair to the story or the audience. It creates a blandness that doesn’t play well with Mary Shelley’s creation.
Aside from pacing problems, timing issues, and a poor excuse for an ending, the movie suffered from an overabundance of James McAvoy spitting. I get that he’s a mad scientist, but that amount saliva spraying everywhere is still a bit much. So much, in fact, that it drew me out of the story because I was thinking about how many times they must have filmed those scenes and just how much of his spit had to be mopped up by some poor stage hand.
In the end, Victor Frankenstein isn’t a groundbreaking film. It’s a story we already know. But for me, it was an interesting telling of that story, at least several degrees better than 2014’s I, Frankenstein. It was also visually pleasing and offered two hours of good acting from some of my favorite British talent. While the film didn’t deserve huge accolades and awards, it’s my opinion that it also didn’t deserve to be dismissed quite as quickly and succinctly as it was.
Rating: 3.5 SHIELDS
Are you one of the few who’ve actually seen Victor Frankenstein? What did you think of the film? What is your favorite movie about Frankenstein or his monster? Let me know in the comments. In case the film was never on your radar, here’s the trailer. Check it out and see if it might appeal to you.