They won’t remember the man, only the monster. True story. Well, actually not a true story, but a very, very good fake one. And Victor Frankenstein is another take on it. Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) is actually a circus clown – literally – prized for his hunchback and ability to take a beating. He is, however, a gifted thinker with a knack for understanding the details of anatomy and the science of surgery. How he got the books to study these practices is a question for another day – and how he learned to read in the first place is a question for the day after that. But during one fateful performance, Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) takes note of Igor’s natural brilliance. He decides to liberate Igor from the public circus and situate him as an assistant in Frankenstein’s private one. Victor Frankenstein is Igor’s telling of the famous story of re-creation and, most importantly, the mad genius’ close relationship with blasphemy.
What we get more of from this story as opposed to Mary Shelley’s traumatic, guilt-stricken original is a heavy side order of romance. Ah that amorous Victorian era of big skirts, extravagant dances, and puss-filled abscesses. Everything a story needs. This is Igor’s perspective of Frankenstein’s life and, as such, it’s perfectly reasonable that the story should leave Frankenstein in a damp basement with a corpse and live copper wires while Igor frolics in the blissful company of the enchanting Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay). The romance highlights Igor’s humanity which makes him ever the more relatable. In comparison, his bag-of-cats roommate, Frankenstein, is as socially disconnected as the body stuffed in his freezer.
But would you rather watch the love-starved clown win the heart of the graceful mademoiselle or the raving psychopath create zombies out of your Aunt Maude and Scruffy the Terrier? The most mesmerizing part of Victor Frankenstein is James McAvoy’s performance. He is so addicted to the process that he never stops to consider what might happen if he succeeds. We’ve seen all this before, but thanks to Igor’s intervention we notice a hint of doubt in Frankenstein’s actions. He knows that he can create life, but is it right to do so? And if he does succeed, what next? Will his creation work in a bakery or run for senate?
While it’s mostly a competition between alpha and beta (or the intense Frankenstein and the very Harry Potter-like Igor), Victor Frankenstein does add in a few visually appealing elements – along with an overdose of sparkles. They look similar to the techniques used in Sherlock Holmes, specifically in the way Igor and Frankenstein visually dissect their subjects, making note of bones, organs, and weak points. These intellectual micro snippets are super nifty, but far too few. The rest is mostly sparkle bombs and carriage rides.
Victor Frankenstein takes an interesting perspective on the classic story and turns Igor into Frankenstein’s creation rather than the famous Monster. James McAvoy is dramatic and strong, but it feels like the same old show from Radcliffe, with a few convenient plot points to take the hunchback out of the Igor. While the movie is interesting to look at visually, there is room for more and sometimes feels likes it’s holding back. Victor Frankenstein is a little disappointing at a 6/10.