Victor Frankenstein (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

victor-frankenstein 75Ultimately, Victor Frankenstein is harmlessly bad and occasionally surprisingly good. But mostly bad.




Victor-Frankenstein 500

The best comparison I can think of for Victor Frankenstein is that of a child’s drawing. It’s obviously not good by any serious standard. Structural flaws are rampant and on the whole it’s just plain silly and nonsensical. But it isn’t hard to admire the imagination and fun that went into it. To its credit, the movie starts off pretty good. Interesting, dreamlike visuals and promising character introductions set the stage for what could have been an exciting and macabre, if not somewhat campy, horror comedy. After the first ten minutes or so, however, everything pretty much goes downhill.

The story centers on Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe, who in this version of the classic Mary Shelley tale is a circus clown rescued by an aggressive and demented Victor Frankenstein, played by James McAvoy. Despite his life of poverty, abuse, and deformation, Igor is an expert in anatomy, making him the perfect partner for Frankenstein’s wacky corpse shenanigans. His patronage under Frankenstein associates him with the creation of undead monsters that wreak havoc on society. Pretty soon the law starts catching up to them and Victor’s mental stability begins to rapidly decline.

Tonally, it’s a mess. At first, the movie seems to be adopting the style of TV’s American Horror Story: Freak Show. At other times, it’s going for that postmodernist take on classical literature trend, like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Outrageous gross out moments and gnarly creature effects are the highlights of the film. If they had been more frequent, it would have been a great callback to movies like The Thing. Unfortunately, there are too many bland and ham-fisted science-versus-religion scenes that try to make the movie seem like it’s more than it actually is and should be. This, and the leads seem to be acting in different movies. Daniel Radcliffe gives a really interesting, expressive performance as the socially awkward but prodigiously intelligent Igor, and McAvoy simply overacts in a rather embarrassing fashion. By the end, the story gets so rushed, predictable, and incompetent that it’s downright chuckle-worthy. In fact, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a good bit of fun watching it. The problem is it’s not quite smart enough to function as a self-aware ode to schlock, and it’s not bad enough to enjoy ironically. Aside from these major detriments, frequent episodes of obnoxiously fast editing and overbearing use of Dutch angles and CGI backgrounds really put a strain on the eye.

All in all, I still want to give a pass to Victor Frankenstein. I think I’m mainly hesitant to slam it because it’s one of the few films in recent memory that makes good use of practical effects. I was worried Frankenstein’s monster would be a bland, gray, motion captured blob like the big orc in the Hobbit movies. I’m glad to announce that we get a real-life person in prosthetics playing the part of the monster. The set design is inventive and dazzling as well. So, ultimately, Victor Frankenstein is harmlessly bad and occasionally surprisingly good. But mostly bad. | Nic Champion

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