Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Movie Review: Victor Frankentstein

Hopefully, this will get me back on track with this blog.

If there's one thing to say for the new movie, Victor Frankenstein, it's definitely colorful. The 19th century aesthetic is vibrant and lively, with excellent costumes, sets, and machinery being used to create a new life scientifically. If only some of it could have been used on the movie itself to save it from a weak story.

Victor Frankenstein is a sort of origin story for the titular mad scientist, going into greater depths about the man from the classic movie as opposed to the original Mary Shelley book. Igor has spent his entire life as a grotesque hunchback in the circus, using what second-hand books he can find to teach himself about human physiology. He thinks that's all there is to his life until Victor shows up, brings him out of the circus, and gives him greater purpose. Victor is a dreamer, but more than that, he is a scientist. That means he has the drive to make his dream a reality. Victor wants to breathe life into the dead, using his own scientific advancements, and with Igor by his side he'll finally be able to accomplish just that. No matter how much the law, his benefactors, or even his own ego get in the way.

Having read the script, I could tell that the movie had a much more interesting story just under the surface in practically every scene. Had the rushed beginning spent more time introducing us to the hunchback and the relationships of the characters, it would have been a much more cathartic experience to see the way they break free. Had the movie kept a lot of the colorful conversations between Igor and Victor, and Igor and Lorelei, the circus' former gymnast, the few interactions that remain wouldn't feel so by the numbers and boring. More than that, the histories and development of the characters were changed for the worse, removing depth and replacing it with tropes that reduce the arguments of the movie for progress down to the tired, "the laws of nature shouldn't be broken" (even if that was one of the idea's in Mary Shelley's original book, this is supposed to be set apart from that). Which is frustrating considering that in the advancement of medical science, the laws of nature are constantly broken when new medicines arrive that save people from once lethal diseases.

There's something to be said for James McAvoy, doing everything he can to give his character flourish in every scene that tries to weigh him down. His performance is a saving grace, constantly pushing at the line dividing homage and camp, as he portrays a man consumed by his work, to the point that he would sacrifice his own life in pursuit of creating a new one. Maybe some of it was left on the cutting room floor, but Daniel Radcliffe as Igor, though sensitive at times, never quite hits the same chord as McAvoy though he is certainly capable. Maybe watching him in A Young Doctor's Notebook, has just ruined his earnestness as a new Doctor for me.

The movie has so much working that it's such a disappointment to be bogged down by a weak story. The costumes are great! The set design is superb! The steampunk machinery used by Frankenstein to his end of creating life is dazzling, a mix of grotesqueries and beauty which exemplify the progress of science. While these are a wholehearted attempt to breathe life into the story, like the creature who bears his name, Victor Frankenstein is betrayed by a hollow interior.  

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