Told from Igor's perspective, we see the troubled young assistant's dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man - and the legend - we know today.
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The first spoken line in Victor Frankenstein
is "You know the story." And of course, everyone does. But it has never before been told like this.
Shown from the point of view of the humble assistant Igor (played by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, who has also been making a name for himself in the horror world with movies like The Woman in Black
), Victor Frankenstein
begins at a circus where Igor performs as a hunchbacked clown. The deformed fool also has a very bright medical mind, and it is put to unexpected use during one performance when the trapeze artist, Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay from "Downton Abbey"), takes a bad fall and Igor, along with audience member Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy from X-Men: First Class
), springs into action to save her. Victor recognizes Igor's brilliance and breaks him out of the circus, but a man is accidentally killed in the process and the two become fugitives. Victor has no time for that, however; he quickly enlists Igor to assist him with his life's work - creating a live being out of parts of dead ones. Victor's project attracts the attention of a benefactor named Finnegan (Freddie Fox from "Cucumber"), but he and Igor have to stay one step ahead of Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott from Jimmy's Hall
), the policeman who is hunting them down, long enough to see their experiment come to fruition.
Although it is technically based on the gothic novel Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein
bears little resemblance to the book. The screenplay, written by Max Landis (Chronicle
, American Ultra
), focuses on the pre-monster part of the story, with the central character being Igor (who isn't in the novel at all). It's a fresh take on both the characters and the plot, with Igor sharing more of the intellectual credit for the monster's creation than he does in previous movies, including the iconic 1931 James Whale Universal version (in which the hunchbacked assistant is actually named Fritz, not Igor). This is not your grandfather's Frankenstein
was directed by Paul McGuigan (Push
, Lucky Number Sleven
), who gives a slick, modern feel to the already timeless tale. It's a pure action movie with plenty of fun camera trickery and slick editing that makes it appear, at times, like a Guy Ritchie or a Danny Boyle flick. The plot is surprisingly multi-layered; the main story, of course, revolves around the experiments of Igor and Victor, but there's also a police procedural subplot involving Inspector Turpin's investigation as well as a small narrative detour that deals with Victor's past demons. As if that weren't enough, there's even a little love story on the side between Igor and Lorelei. There's depth to this tale.
In a way, Victor Frankenstein
is mistitled; the name Frankenstein
gives the connotation that it's a horror movie, and it's really not. It's got the same vibe as a quirky buddy-mystery, something similar to the Sherlock Holmes
movies. It could have been called anything else and been just as effective. But hey, at least Victor Frankenstein
won't shame the family name any more than I, Frankenstein
did - that would be impossible.
The visual effects for Victor Frankenstein
were designed and created by Rob Mayor of Millennium FX, who has also done various special effects work on sci-fi movies such as Ex Machina
, Event Horizon
, and Chernobyl Diaries
. For the most part, the effects are practical, with CG only used in the most obvious of places or to clean up the frayed edges. Mayor and his team built both versions of Frankenstein's monster in the film from the ground up. The first one, Gordon (or Prometheus 1), is a mashup of different parts of various animals and is controlled by puppeteers and animatronics, giving it a The Thing
kind of look and feel. The second, Henry (or Prometheus 2), is humanoid and played by Guillaume Delaunay (Stonehearst Asylum
). Mayor makes Delaunay up to look a bit like the traditional Karloff monster, with square angular features, but with more of a stone look, as if he were molded directly from clay. The visual effects that make up the monsters in Victor Frankenstein
don't rely too heavily (if at all) on the appearances of previous Frankenstein
's monsters, allowing the movie to have an identity all its own.
Despite being based on one of the most iconic horror characters in literary and cinematic history, Victor Frankenstein is not scary in the least. It's much more of an action-packed thrill ride than a chilling horror movie. The monsters themselves, while grotesque and beastly, are more awe-inspiring than terrifying, sparking more morbid curiosity than actual fear. Even the hair-raising climactic battle is all fight and no fright. It's still a great movie, and a fun movie, it's just not a scary movie. There's nothing to be found in Victor Frankenstein that is going to make anyone lose any sleep, but that's hardly the point of the movie.