Victor Frankenstein (2015)

(Video on Demand, March 2016) I wasn’t expecting much from this film, even well into its first act. Part of it was misapprehension: For some reason, I was convinced that Victor Frankenstein was another attempt to reboot a Frankenstein franchise along the lines of the underwhelming I, Frankenstein. But this film turns out to be another kind of creature. Focusing on Igor (Daniel Radcliffe, playing a genius-level autodidact doctor escaping the circus in order to be Doctor Frankenstein’s protégé) and his relationship with his mad-genius benefactor Frankenstein, this is a Victorian fantasy with an occasionally playful intent, going over a familiar story with some wit—at least until a generic third act. Victor Frankenstein will play best with those who are a bit tired of the usual take on Frankenstein: It clearly focuses on the doctor and his apprentice, and by the time the monster comes to life, everyone realizes how big a mistake this is. The production design of the movie is probably what shines most: It’s wonderful and Victorian and wouldn’t take much to veer into steampunk. Against that backdrop, Radcliffe turn in a likable performance, while James McAvoy is almost fearsome as the driven Dr. Frankenstein. Clearly patterned on other contemporary retellings such as the Sherlock Holmes revivals, Victor Frankenstein works best when it moves fast, plays with its own ideas and leaves enough breathing space to its two lead actors. (It could have done with less knee-jerk “resurrection is evil!” material, though, given how familiar that sounds.) It significantly falters during its more conventional third act, as we converge on the usual blasts of lightning, evil monster, confrontation above a big hole and other such familiar elements of modern SF&F climax sequences. Oh well; the theorem of convergent premises strikes again. In the meantime, Victor Frankenstein makes for a decent take on the classic story, and it certainly works better than I, Frankenstein.

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