Yes, it’s re-boot of a famous gothic character again. I had this one on the review schedule earlier in the year, but I put it down there because I believed it’s part of the monster universe that was being started last year with Dracula Untold which I have already reviewed for the site, but later I realised the film was actually produced by 20th Century Fox and the films were completely un-connected, which made me think that this film had potential, considering Dracula Untold wasn’t that good. I had trouble pinning this one down!! This film has been on and off the review schedule for The Axia Film Society throughout most of 2015 because 20th Century Fox could never put down a release date to this film and stick to it. Seriously it’s been kicked around the release schedules more times than a football in Wayne Rooney’s garden!! It was originally meant to come out at the end of August before it was moved to an early October release so they could capitalise on the same slot that Dracula Untold had last year, then it was moved to November, then back to late October, then November again, then back to early October then late October, then late November before changing it one more time to a December release!! This has clearly been designed to sell to people who don’t want to go and see Star Wars and are looking for any other alternative whatsoever. The question now is, “Is this a decent alternative to the only recently released Star Wars”?
The plot of Victor Frankenstein is that a young Victor Frankenstein (played by James McAvoy) comes across the “hunchback” Igor (played by Daniel Radcliffe) who he releases from a circus after discovering that he is a talented Physician. He takes him back to his Lab and cures his “hunchback” under the condition that he aids him with his experiment to create life from death. However, not only will he have to deal with the experiment going wrong, he has to deal with corrupt financiers and constant suspicion from the deeply religious Inspector Turpin, (played by Andrew Scott) who is out for Victor Frankenstein.
This film takes a rather interesting slant on the Frankenstein story, where this one is told from Igor’s perspective rather than Victor’s and he is the main character. But there lies the first problem with the film. For a film that is heavily marketed as we are seeing the origins and the progressions of Victor Frankenstein from a good person to a Psychotic killer who will do anything for his research, it can never achieve that if we are not seeing it from Victor’s perspective. It’s really Igor’s movie and we don’t get much character progression with him. Most of his character progression is done relatively early and that means in the middle it’s left twiddling its thumbs trying to get something to happen out of nothing. There are plenty of good ideas brought up and there are some cool scenes and some well thought out plot points, but there is nothing really tying them together, it never really forms a cool piece as a whole. It also doesn’t help the fact that virtually every character outside of Igor and Victor Frankenstein are woefully dull. We have the snooty financier Finnegan who is obviously corrupt, played by Freddie Fox, we have the obvious love interest, Lorelei played by Jessica Brown Findlay and of course we have the Inspector played by Andrew Scott who would have been rather interesting in his debates with Victor if they had been on screen longer together, but we have seen plenty of on screen creation versus science debates and there is nothing really new bought to the table on this one. That is true for everything there is nothing really new that’s been bought to this version of Frankenstein. Early scenes indicate that this is going to be a Victorian Steampunk action romp rather similar to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films, which is especially indicated in an early chase scene with Victor and Igor escaping the circus, which is accompanied by tons of unnecessary slow downs, but there is not enough action in the film for it to really be that either. It’s really reserved for the beginning and the end of the film and it’s not very good and it’s painfully obvious that this film has been directed by someone who has directed several episodes of Sherlock since most of the scenes try to do that fast frenetic genius talk that is in that series. The thing about the film that is really weird though is the fact that it looks once again like this is another example of a film where test screening and re-editing have completely destroyed the film and just tried to turn it into as much of a product as possible. The best example of this is a scene later on in the film were Andrew Scott’s character is wearing an eye patch and in the next scene it’s completely missing with absoloutly no explanation. There are also several scenes that haven’t made the final cut of the film and I suspect judging by some of the scenes and dialogue that turn up in the trailer there’s possibly even an alternative ending. I just don’t get it. This screenplay for this film was written by Max Landis who is the Son of the legendary John Landis and his previous credit was writing the film Chronicle, which unfortunately means like Josh Trank, his next film following that has been a flop. It’s really annoying. When I saw the end of The Chronicle I was very excited to see what both of these guys were going to do next, but it appears that both of them have had serious studio interference affecting their work. I actually think that for their next project, they should team up again. Mind you, there are some things that really don’t help the film. The dialogue isn’t great, in fact the first line of the film is “you have heard this story before” which is told through narration by Igor, which doesn’t help in making us realise that there isn’t really much different here to any other version of Frankenstein plus there’s a really weird out of place Homage to Young Frankenstein that just feels painfully forced. It really feels like another example of a universal monster being bitten by the Twilight bug, not helped by the fact that Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy are playing younger versions of the characters.
The film tried to deliver some build up and some genuine intrigue and mystery as the film goes on, but it’s just not there. Nothing ever quite clicks and the characters really don’t progress much, they are virtually the same as they are at the end of the film, there’s just no progression to them, which means the marketing is largely a lie. The trailers never show what the monster looks like and the film largely keeps him hidden for most of the climax of the film, however when we finally do see him the design is rather decent. It’s very similar to the iconic monster that Boris Karloff played but it does look slightly more new and up to date even if it did kind of look to me like it was a mix between WWE’s Brock Lesner and The Tyson from the resident evil games. The build up is at least appropriately decent but the pay off doesn’t really fit. Several of the characters are so one dimensional that they are not even given ceremonial send-offs and the ending is atrociously bad, trying to hook people in for a sequel that clearly will never happen. The story is purely a mess, pure and simple, it doesn’t really have much and if I haven’t forgotten it by the time this publication is out then it will be a major surprise for me as this just did not work.
The cast rather surprised me because they are entirely British despite the fact that this film did not receive an early British release, clearly another indicator that this film sat on the shelf and was constantly re-edited. Poor Daniel Radcliffe, everything since Harry Potter finished has been rather iffy at best and he gave a really good performance earlier this year in the BBC3 drama The Game Changers, but this film is clearly under using his talent to play a really bland character who I just can’t get behind and it’s just not there. The actor is capable of much better than this. James McAvoy plays at least a decent Victor Frankenstein and he tries to deliver some changingly dramatic performances surrounding his back story, but the script fails him constantly and for an actor that I do kind of enjoy he really seems to be slumming it in this role. Likewise Jessica Brown Findlay is just playing the love interest in this film and it’s just not fair on her because whilst she is not delivering a great performance she has got a badly written part so she never stood a chance before she even started. Freddie Fox plays a pretty poorly written villain but does it to at least a decent standard which is good because I have enjoyed the young actor in a couple of his previous roles, but the surprising bad performance for me is Andrew Scott who delivers a howlingly bad performance and it’s surprising considering again that Paul McGuigan directed this and he has directed several episodes of Sherlock which Moriarty appeared in. It does feel kind of weird having Andrew Scott play an Inspector in this film considering we are used to seeing him as Moriarty, but you could have got around that with good direction, but it is clear that Paul McGuigan doesn’t quite know how to direct him in this role. Also his devout christian angle was really hammed up to an absurd degree and made me not be able to take the character seriously at all. The only memorable performance in this film is the cameo from Charles Dance who once again, is on top form as Victor Frankenstein’s father, but again, he is only in it for one scene and despite the fact that it’s really good, it’s also really short. At least they didn’t plug the film based on him being in it as they did with Dracula Untold. The cast are really good but their parts are badly written and they aren’t given time to do their job to the best of their degrees and that’s not when the director seems to try and make them as hammy as possible. Oh, and Spencer Wilding is trying his best to be the new monster but it’s very clear that his movement is being heavily restricted by the heavy amount of make up he is wearing.
The effects in general are actually decent. The monster’s design is pretty good and I liked some of the early experiments that Victor had set up and the period piece costumes are actually pretty decent as well as the set designs, but none of them really sell gothic horror, its more sells steam punk adventure, hence my comparison to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films. The computer effects are actually not bad and they do blend into the seams relatively well, they are not amazing, but I have seen a hell of a lot worse. It’s very strange that this film early on tries to sell itself as an action film when it clearly isn’t, at least those scenes are done pretty well, even though there is some very, very, unnecessary slow motion early on including one point which was just slow motion to show a character jumping with no peril. But the film simply isn’t an action film so there isn’t much to talk about. The scenes are at least decently done. The film builds up some early ideas about showing skeletal structures and organs during movement but they are done so infrequently that you almost forget that they are there, which is a shame because it’s one of the few things that make this distinctively stand out amongst other Frankenstein films. The film’s gem however, is the set design, it’s very decent, even though it definitely felt like a lot of the scenes were struggling with a budget and had to re-use sets.
The biggest negative I really had with this films is that it’s a 12A in the UK and a PG13 in America and as a result the film can’t go all out it’s trying to appease to a younger audience that simply doesn’t exist for this film. There is literally no reason for it to have this rating, the film can’t go all out, there is not enough time to show gore in any horrific designs and any time you get even close to that there’s a cut away. If this was part of their re-editing this was a serious mis-step because it means that the film feels tonally awful and the film can’t go all out with it’s back stories which try to add more to the characters, but it’s clear that a lot of that has been edited out as well. For example, Finegan explains in the trailer what he wants Frankensteins technology for but he never does it in the actual film itself and Frankenstein’s back story is barely touched upon in a few lines of dialogue and a couple of scenes so as a result you are left with a film that feels half done.
Victor Frankenstein is not one of the worst films of 2015 but it’s hardly good at the same time. It’s a very forgettable film, it doesn’t really have much to offer, the actors are very decent but they are so bland in this film and it’s a real shame that it’s a blight on the careers of Director Paul McGuigan and Writer Mat Landis who are both very talented people, hopefully their next project together will be better. There is very little praise to really give to the film, but at least it’s a decently shot film and it never feels awful, it just feels boring and dull and you know that everyone involved can do better. It’s a mess pure and simple and it’s probably down to studio interference and constant re-editing, which once again destroyed what was clearly a promising film, and it’s a shame for James McAvoy and Daniel Ratcliffe who are actors that I really enjoy and have been given a film that is clearly not up to their talents. I would skip this one altogether if I were you.
What are your thoughts on Victor Frankenstein? Did you agree with me or do you have a totally different opinion, if you have I would love to hear your comments.
Since It’s Christmas I am going to ask this question:
“What is your favourite Christmas Movie”?
That’s the last review for 2015 seeing as we are going to be on a Christmas break. I will be back on 1 January 2016 with a review from a Galaxy Far Far Away and of course that will be followed by my best and worst films of 2015.
On behalf of Axia I would like to wish you all
a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my review as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
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