Victor Frankenstein

 

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Paul McGuigan brings us a vivid and dynamic reinvention of an old tale.

   
Victor Frankenstein

Janes McAvoy

 

“You know the story…” Daniel Radcliffe warns us as the film opens. “A crack of lightning. A mad genius…” Of course, it was only last year that Aaron Eckhart played the Monster in Stuart Beattie’s I, Frankenstein, which was roundly rubbished by the critics. This, though, is a ‘reboot’ and features two of the UK’s biggest stars – Radcliffe and, in the title role, James McAvoy. And like most reboots of recent years, it does the material justice. Here, Mary Shelley’s story is told from the perspective of Igor, Victor Frankenstein’s lab flunky (not mentioned in Shelley’s book), a ruse that gives the narrative some spine. Igor’s own twisted spine is not in question, certainly once Victor has liberated Igor from the circus and diagnosed his supposed curvature of the spine as a giant cyst and promptly remedies the problem. When, afterwards, Igor/Radcliffe staggers to his feet and proclaims “I’m standing up!” it recalls John Hurt’s immortal cry from The Elephant Man: “I – am – a – man!”

 

Victoriana has always held enormous appeal for Hollywood producers, from the oeuvre of Charles Dickens to Jack the Ripper and, indeed, The Elephant Man. Here, the Scottish director Paul McGuigan brings Victorian London to modern life, with giant dinosaur-like cranes towering over the EC4 skyline, much like the spindlier versions do today. But the computer graphics don’t stop there. As viewed from the perspective of Vic and Igor, the bones and organs of the bodies in the film – both living and inanimate – are brought to life with anatomical illustration: a constant reminder that all of us are just biological machines.

 

This, then, is a vivid and dynamic reinvention of an old yarn, with youth and science on its side. As a gleefully salivating McAvoy reasons: “life is temporary – so why should death be any different?” If, inevitably, the film short-circuits on its final loop, it leaves a shower of spectacular sparks in its wake: magnificent sets, a rousing score (courtesy of Craig Armstrong), a rip-roaring tempo, engaging ideas and an eye for rewarding detail. And a good omen here: Dr Frankenstein’s first lab assistant in the cinema (in the 1944 House of Frankenstein) was called Daniel.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Charles Dance, Freddie Fox, Mark Gatiss, Callum Turner, Daniel Mays, Bronson Webb, Alistair Petrie.

 

Dir Paul McGuigan, Pro John Davis, Screenplay Max Landis, Ph Fabian Wagner, Pro Des Eve Stewart, Ed Andrew Hulme, Music Craig Armstrong, Costumes Jany Temime.

 

Davis Entertainment Company/TSG Entertainment-20th Century Fox.

109 mins. USA/UK/Canada. 2015. Rel: 3 December 2015. Cert. 12A.