The Dr. and his new assistant Igor combine their talents to create man.
Since the 1931 original ‘Frankenstein’ has had more incarnations than books ghost-written by Katie Price all with varying degrees of success with 2013’s ‘I, Frankenstein 3D’ proving disastrous making only $71m on a budget of $65m. With most films focussing on the monster this chooses instead the budding relationship between McAvoy and Radcliffe, a nameless circus hunchback rescued by the Doctor and renamed Igor. In this version Igor is a self taught medical genius which challenges the image we’ve had of him in previous incarnations and together a budding bromance evolves as they create a mad monkey hybrid that goes crazy ape bonkers when it’s reanimated. Simultaneously Andrew Scott as a Scotland Yard detective investigates a death at the circus which leads him ever closer to uncovering the doctor’s ultimate ambition.
Written by Max Landis, son of John, and writer of the recent slacker action film ‘American Ultra’ this is not a faithful retelling of the book (in which Igor does not even feature) but with some quirky lines, sly references and some ad-libbing this is essentially the same story wrapped inside a bromance between the two leads set against a Grand Guignol background and a brilliantly production designed London.
Radcliffe is now some years from his last Harry Potter film and this is an effort to distance him ever further from his wholesome image in that franchise but it is not so radically different as say the role he played in ‘Horns’. It’s McAvoy in the title role who has the showy part raising it to almost operatic levels of hysteria at times whilst Andrew Scott as the God-fearing detective driven to uncover their ultimate goal who is the most compelling and would have benefitted from more screen time. The same could be said of Mark Gatiss in a role so tiny and with next to no lines is nigh on impossible to spot and a waste of his talents to such a degree you can only assume his scenes are on the cutting room floor or the cheque was too big to refuse.
Director Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) thankfully replaced Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum franchise) which gives a clue as to the style of the film and there are great sets and shots in the film aided a little by CGI and there are nice little flourishes with his use of diagrams from ancient medical books featured throughout.
So what of the monster itself? It veers little from the 1931 template and is monolithic and monosyllabic which is as it should be and thankfully the film makers have not resorted to a CGI abomination but rather a real actor to portray the monster (or in reality two actors). The film follows an action film path more so than the extreme horror though there are moments of ickiness (there’s a scene with Igor’s hunchback which the film relishes) but this is a film aimed squarely at Radcliffe’s fan base with the film not horrific enough to be taken seriously and not trashy camp enough to be a future cult classic.
Words: Simon Hooper (@anygoodfilms?)