Victor Frankenstein ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
There have been dozens of movies with the word “Frankenstein” in the title, some of them memorable and some not. The latest variation on the Frankenstein myth is Victor Frankenstein, which stars James McAvoy as the titular mad scientist and Daniel Radcliffe as the person who comes to be known as Igor.
The Daniel Radcliffe character is a nameless hunchback who has always been with the circus, where he’s mistreated and locked in a cage. When a female acrobatic artist named Lorelei, with whom he is secretly in love, has a bad fall while performing, Dr. Victor Frankenstein just happens to be on hand. When he sees how the nameless clown hunchback keeps Lorelei from dying, he realizes what a talented (self-trained) physician the pitiful hunchback is. He arranges for the young man to leave the circus with him and thereafter takes charge of him. He recognizes right away that the hunchback isn’t really a hunchback but is suffering from an abscess on the spinal column with a huge sac of fluid. When he drains the fluid from the hunchback’s spine, the hunchback is a hunchback no longer and he begins, with the help of a back brace, to stand upright. Dr. Frankenstein gives him the name of Igor, after a “flat-mate” of his who, we later discover, has died of a drug overdose and been frozen in a block of ice by the doctor.
Igor soon realizes that he owes everything in his life to Dr. Frankenstein, who rescued him from his degrading life in the circus. (Therefore Dr. Frankenstein is, in a way, the creator of Igor.) When Dr. Frankenstein realizes what a talented, though self-educated, physician Igor is in his own right, he lets him in on his secret of creating life in the laboratory, thereby conquering death. The first example of his laboratory-created life is a hideous, uncontrollable, ape-like creature, but it is just successful enough to attract a wealthy investor, who, we learn later, has base ulterior motives. The wealthy benefactor also has in his possession a family castle in an isolated part of Scotland where Dr. Frankenstein and Igor might conduct their experiments away from prying eyes. From what source might they draw enough electricity to spark life into their new creation? Why, from lightning, of course.
Igor, in his transformed, non-hunchback self, reunites with Lorelei and she acknowledges that she owes her life to him and falls in love with him. They all reconvene to the castle in Scotland where the two mad scientists, in a sort of anti-climax, do in fact create a gigantic “homunculus” that has the potential to change the world. It needs a little more work, though, doesn’t it? It only wants to kill and maim. This is not good.
Victor Frankenstein is not one of the best movies of the year, but if you like escapist, period films set in the Victorian era about mad scientists who challenge the accepted order or things, then you will find it passable entertainment, better in the first half than in the second. If nothing else, it’s pretty to look at.
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp