Victor Frankenstein: Less of a Monster, More of a Madman

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Victor Frankenstein, the latest film to star wunderkind, Daniel Radcliffe, (of the Harry Potter series) feels like someone took Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, and Mary Shelley’s novel, cut them up and sewed them all together. Lacking the spark that gives Frankenstein’s monster life, the movie falls short of expectations and leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

For those of you who haven’t taken British Novel, in the original tale, there is no Igor. The story of Frankenstein’s monster is told through a series of letters from the captain of a ship bound for the North Pole. He comes across Victor, who tells him the story of how he found the secret to life and was horrified by its result. Victor was plagued by the monster he had created and eventually, the knowledge of what he had done by stitching life from parts and bits, killed him.

In contrast to the original story, Victor Frankenstein is told through Igor’s point of view, an interesting departure from the long standing tradition of focusing in on Victor’s story.

We start off with Igor in the circus; a nameless, hunchbacked clown, bearing the brunt of the cruel jokes in the ring. After gaining the attention of medical student Victor Frankenstein (X-Men: First Class’s James McAvoy) by saving a fallen aerialist named Lorelei (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay), he is rescued by the eccentric aspiring doctor.

Victor takes Igor home and fixes his hunchback, washes, and names him. Frankenstein congratulates Igor on his new life, and then shares with him the purpose of his rescue: to assist Victor in his quest to prove that death is not unconquerable.

The film uses a montage of creation scenes in which Victor and Igor piece together their creation, which they call Gordon. To create Gordon, Victor and Igor pull parts from discarded zoo animals and pieces of Victor’s former roommate!  

But what good would a film be without a villain? In this case, the bad guy is a man of the law. Inspector Roderick Turpin (Andrew Scott, Moriarty in the BBC’s Sherlock) is the buttoned-up, extremely pious Inspector. When the case of the missing hunchback and the stranger who released him lands on the Inspector’s desk, he can immediately see that there is more than a missing hunchback here.

As Victor and Igor grow closer and closer to the secret to eternal life, Roderick is right on their tail, growing ever more paranoid and mad as this case confuses and confounds him, challenging everything he believes to be true.

Indeed, it is madness that seems to be the theme to this film. Victor is fixated on creating his monster. Finnegan, Victor’s financial backer, played by Freddie Fox, desires to bring about a new age in England using Victor’s monsters. Turpin battles not only Victor, but his own internal spiral of doubt and religious fanaticism. With all of this insanity, it’s surprising to have the hunchback be the voice of reason.

Daniel Radcliffe has matured well beyond his days as the boy wizard. As Igor, he stands up to Victor Frankenstein and provides the film with a true protagonist. Unfortunately, the writing doesn’t allow Igor to truly make a difference in the story. Rather than making Victor deal with his demons, the writers allow him to sneak off to parts unknown and leave Igor and Radcliffe to pick up the pieces of the failed experiments.

Victor Frankenstein is fun for those who love Shelley’s original story and like a twist. Unfortunately, it does not complete its task. Igor is left high and dry, wondering where Frankenstein ran off to, and so is the audience.