Victor Frankenstein and the story of his monster is a tale that's been adapted onscreen countless times. Whether it's a comic-book adaptation with Aaron Eckhart or all the way back to Boris Karloff, the character has captured imaginations for generations. So with that in mind, it's a little disappointing to see something like this be so casual and bland with a potentially great story.
he story, of course, is no different from any other adaptation of the story. Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) is a troubled genius who befriends Igor Straussman (Daniel Radcliffe), a 'hunchback' who also serves as a clown in a travelling circus that likes to read medicine journals. As Victor befriends him after a scuffle with Igor's masters at the circus, Igor becomes quickly humanised and his 'hunchback' is revealed to be nothing more than a cyst that's drained of fluid. These early experiments with medicine lead Victor to his ultimate goal - life reanimated through science. After a series of bizarre and, in one instance, genuinely disturbing scenes, Victor edges closer to his goal of life from death. There's also a subplot of sorts with Andrew Scott as a religious fanatic / investigator who's out to shut them down, a beautiful aerialist who falls in love with Igor and a few interesting scenes, but it's all so timid and dull.
ames McAvoy gives easily one of his most outlandish and baffling performances in years, hamming it up at every available opportunity and never once allowing a sense of realism or subtlety to come into play. Instead, he's shouting to the rafters and rolling his R's at every available opportunity, clearly lapping up the opportunity to indulge some of his wildest flourishes. Radcliffe, of course, is the counterbalance to McAvoy's megalomania and acts as both the voice of reason and the window into his world for the audience. The relationship between McAvoy and Radcliffe is in many ways not unlike that between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
hat was clearly what director Paul McGuigan was trying to tap into, something that he did successfully with BBC's modern update of Sherlock. It just doesn't work here, however. McAvoy's performance is too wild and erratic, too overblown and overcooked for it to make any sense. Likewise, the story essentially goes nowhere until the very end, only picking up in the final thirty minutes before it concludes exactly where you'd expect. Max Landis' script is a bit dull, never really exploring Frankenstein's motivations or why he's driven so demented. We're just supposed to accept it at face value and move on; indeed, one particular scene with the always reliable Charles Dance as Frankenstein's father gives us a slight glimpse before moving on.
t's a frustrating experience, overall, never really landing on any particular tone and not inventive or memorable enough to warrant the time. It's a shame, because there's an interesting take on Frankenstein out there somewhere. This isn't it, sadly.