Certificate 12A, 110 minutes
Director: Paul McGuigan
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown
Victor Frankenstein starts in London is what is probably the latter half of the nineteenth century, although this is never stated for certain, but can only be inferred. There is a narration by an unnamed hunchback (Daniel Radcliffe, Horns, The Woman in Black), who works at a circus as a clown, but the pratfalls and hits he receives during his act are real, not fake. The hunchback is treated very badly, although he knows no different, having lived at the circus for his whole life, and hasn't even been given a name. He also has an interest in anatomy, and serves as the circus's doctor as well as a clown.
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Victor_Frankenstein_2015.jpgOne night, during an act, the acrobat Lorelei (Jessica Brown), who the hunchback is fond of, falls from her trapeze when one of the supports breaks. The hunchback, and others, rush over to see what is wrong. One of these is Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy), who is visiting the circus for his own reasons. The hunchback and Victor quickly diagnose what is wrong with Lorelei, but Victor says she will die, as he cannot help her, because he lacks the equipment needed. However, the hunchback is able to fix the injury and keep her alive, despite lacking any equipment, using only what is on hand, and he does this quickly. This impresses Victor, and he tells the hunchback he is wasted at the circus. Later on, after the hunchback has been locked in a cage for even contemplating leaving the person who owns him.
Frankenstein offers to break him out, and after some dallying, the hunchback agrees. During the course of the escape, one of the other circus performers is killed, although not by the pair themselves. Detective Inspector Turpin of Scotland Yard (Andrew Scott, Spectre, Swallows and Amazons) is called in because there is an accusation of theft and murder. Even though the inspector does not believe that the pair are actually guilty of murder, or most of the crimes for which they are accused, he stills gets posters up depicting their likenesses, for Victor dropped something at the scene that probably linked him to a number of other crimes, involving parts from dead animals, that the inspector was already investigating.
Meanwhile, Victor takes the hunchback in and removes his hunch, straightening his spine. He gives him a name - Igor - after Victor's rarely present roommate. Frankenstein is a student at the Royal College of Medicine in London, but his interest is not in his lectures. Essentially, he wants to cure death. Victor shows the newly-named Igor some of his work - a pair of eyes that, using a fluid of Victor's invention, and electricity, display life, or at least a semblance of it. Igor shows he has abilities that Victor, genius though he may be, lacks, and the latter wants the former's help as his assistant and, later, partner. Frankenstein may be the showy genius, but in his own, quiet way, Igor is just as brilliant himself.
Frankenstein brings animal parts to Igor, he modifies them to enable them to function once more, then Victor takes them away again, to the basement of their dwelling, where Igor is not initially allowed to venture. Victor finally revealing his creation, which he calls Gordon, an assemblage of pieces from different animals, with the majority of it being from a chimpanzee. After the monster is successfully brought to life in the lab, even if only for a short while, Victor and Igor take their creation to a demonstration at the College to a small, mostly uninterested audience.
The demonstration does not go well, but it goes well enough to impress Finnegan (Freddie Fox), a wealthy aristocrat who also attends the College. The latter offers to fund Victor, and asks him if he can create another thing such as Gordon. Victor says that he can create more than that, and says he can create a man - Victor seems to have gone from the idea of curing death to that of creating life. Igor is becoming increasingly troubled by Victor's change in direction, and what he plans to do. The rather religious Detective Inspector Turpin is also closing in; he seems to be pursuing Frankenstein more on moral and religious grounds than because there's any evidence of anything illegal going on.
Turpin and Victor Frankenstein are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both are driven men, brilliant at what they do, but they both possess an edge that that suggests that they can be pushed beyond brilliance into insanity. They are both driven by tragic events in their past, but whereas Victor has turned to science for solace, Turpin has turned to religion, and this makes the two clash. The performances of both actors works, with McAvoy's portrayal of Frankenstein going over the top on occasion, as he depicts a genius on the verge of insanity, a driven, frenetic man who has problems coping with everyday people. Finnegan is largely a nonentity, a stereotypical aristocrat, and he brings little to the story, and Lorelei may be Igor's love interest, but she is so rarely on the screen that their relationship has little bearing on the film. Igor himself, even though the story revolves around him, more than it does Frankenstein, is largely in the background, but this would appear to be deliberate, rather than accidental.
Victor Frankenstein is yet another version of Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein, but when Igor says "You know the story" he's telling the truth. This version owes more to the traditional cinematic interpretations than it does to the original novel, and doesn't bring that much of anything new. The story evolves in largely the same way as it does in most of the other interpretations of the novel; the characters and locations may be slightly different, but the outcome isn't. Victor's home is a classic cinematic mad scientist's lair, filled with bubbling apparatus, strange machines of unguessable use and, of course, bolts of electricity. The climactic scene, naturally enough, takes place during a lightning storm. Victor Frankenstein has some decent performances by, primarily, James McAvoy - who does a decent mad scientist - but it lacks any real originality and doesn't bring anything truly new to the story, making it rather a wasted opportunity to actually tell Frankenstein a different way to how it normally is.