If anyone is even vaguely aware of Victor Frankenstein, the newest cinematic take on Mary Shelley’s classic novel, it’s probably because it features Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. But while he’s certainly good in it, the real reason for watching the film is James McAvoy, a talented and consistently underrated Brit.
The script by Chronicle scribe Max Landis tells the story from the point of view of Igor (Radcliffe), whom Landis imagines as a nameless, hunchbacked young man enslaved by a circus. Upon visiting the circus, medical student Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) observes Radcliffe’s human-anatomy smarts, frees him from his miserable big-top life and brings him to London.
To sound a bit obvious, the normal Frankenstein rules don’t quite apply here. Landis borrows Igor and Frankenstein, the monster (briefly), the time period, and Frankenstein’s ultimate goal from Shelley’s book, but uses them to fashion an origin story about Frankenstein and Igor, one that fascinatingly turns Igor into an intelligent person capable of living a civilized existence.
Radcliffe works just fine as Igor overall, making him especially interesting and endearing early on, when we see him at the circus, hunched over and staring lovingly at the beautiful trapeze artist (Jessica Brown Findlay) whose life he saves, and during his initial days as a hunchback-less person of society. He becomes less interesting, though, the more he turns into Frankenstein’s conscience.
McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) outshines him, skillfully combining his typically amusing brashness—when he rescues Radcliffe and subsequently removes his abnormality—with some nicely calibrated sensitivity, and just a bit of hubris, to create a truly tragic being. In one of the film’s best scenes, he reveals to Radcliffe the all-too-human reason he’s conducting his horrific experiments.
They—including Andrew Scott (Spectre) as an obsessive police inspector and Charles Dance in a single scene as Frankenstein’s father—all inhabit a world impressively realized by frequent Sherlock director Paul McGuigan, who ends things on a wonderfully bombastic, Van Helsing-esque note, as Frankenstein brings his creation to life—and realizes maybe he shouldn’t have. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 3/8/16