Thursday, December 3, 2015

Movie Review #347: "Victor Frankenstein" (2015)

Movie"Victor Frankenstein"
Director: Paul McGuigan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
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A nameless circus hunchback and self-taught doctor (Daniel Radcliffe) is rescued from his abusive environment by a medical student named Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy). Victor fixes the hunchback's posture and gives him the name Igor. Victor rescued Igor because he believes Igor can help him with his research to create life from dead tissue.

Because when we think of Thanksgiving, we think of Frankenstein.

If you had to ask us which of the new releases we were least looking forward to come the Thanksgiving holiday, it probably would have been "Victor Frankenstein." It's not that we didn't like the actors involved, but the trailers didn't really do the film justice as far as content, coming off as really hokey and sort of lame. With 2013's "I, Frankenstein" being a complete and total waste of time on top of being a flop, we simply weren't all that interested, and the bottom line is, we didn't expect much. We are surprised and a little delighted to say this movie was actually pretty damn enjoyable. Sure, it's not going to win any awards or critical accolades, but it is an entertaining way to kill almost 2 hours. Seriously, what could go wrong when you pair Professor X with Harry Potter?

This film takes a very old tale that has been told numerous times and throws a fresh spin on it. It tells the story from the perspective of "Igor," played by Daniel Radcliffe, who is the main character of the film despite its title. This version of the story is actually more of a prequel to Mary Shelley's book than a re-imagining of that story. James McAvoy plays the titular character of Victor Frankenstein, who at the time of this story is a medical student obsessed with only one thing: creating life where their was none. Victor rescues Igor from his life of servitude and ridicule after he sees Igor save the life of a trapeze artist named Lorelei, played by Jessica Brown Findlay. Victor believes Igor's talents are being wasted at the circus and thinks they would be much better served as his assistant. Igor, trapped and shackled by chains, is set free by Victor, and the pair make a quick escape where Victor then frees Igor of his hunch, and gives him food, clothes, and shelter. From there, McAvoy's Frankenstein and Radcliffe's Igor manage to be an eclectic pair, with Frankenstein being a complete eccentric loon, a mad scientist of sorts, and Igor an undiscovered genius and a more level-headed man...well, most of the time. Their main opponent is Inspector Turpin, played by Andrew Scott, who is an intelligent and often logical police detective who is also a religiously devout man. When he deduces what Victor might be up to, he lets his faith overpower his logic as he believes that Victor is doing the work of the devil and it is his godly duty to stop him, even if it means circumventing the law to do it. McAvoy is a great actor in both dramatic and action-packed roles, and this film is no different. As Frankenstein, he is sarcastic and flamboyant, often making snarky, spit-flinging retorts at the adversaries to his ultimate goal. Radcliffe has come a long way since the "Harry Potter" franchise, and though glimmers of him as a child are still there on screen, he is a relatively changed man and has really come into his own as an actor apart from the series. Though some might disagree, we haven't seen him in anything we haven't liked as an adult.

We completely understand that there will be many people who don't like this film, especially those who have an affinity towards the original story of Frankenstein and those who hold it as a sacred origin story. When director Paul McGuigan turns a normally tragic drama into a fun, almost comic book-style popcorn movie, it's definitely bound to put some people off and ruffle a few feathers. For us, even as trite as the story may be, it is a nice looking film that is very entertaining. We also really appreciate the use and implementation of a lot of practical effects over CGI, mainly in the scenes involving the circus and the creation of Frankenstein's monster. McGuigan could have easily gone 100% CGI like "I, Frankenstein" before it, but seemingly used it much less. James McAvoy gives a intentionally over the top performance as the obsessive Frankenstein, who is so passionate about his work it completely overtakes his life. Daniel Radcliffe is the more subdued of the two as he slowly adapts to life outside the circus, but still plays his part quite well. One knock against "Victor Frankenstein" is the romance with Lorelei. It feels completely unnecessary and shoehorned into the story, as did the addition of Frankenstein's father, played by the wonderful Charles Dance, who only has one scene in the entire film. The visuals are quite good, the makeup work is also great, the settings and backgrounds are convincing enough, and we cannot express how startled we were that this movie didn't completely suck.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 28%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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