Review – Frankenstein Was A Slytherin (“Victor Frankenstein”)

Harry Potter teams up with young Charles Xavier and is thwarted by Professor Moriarty in this deliciously re-imagined version of the classic Mary Shelley novel of a mad scientist bent on creating life after death, but this time it’s Igor that saves the day!
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Forget what you’ve read or seen in previous versions, this story of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) is told through the eyes of his assistant, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), a mistreated hunchbacked circus clown and brilliant self-taught physician. Although nameless at first, Igor is discovered by the good doctor after he saves trapeze performer Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) after her near-fatal fall.

Taking in the downtrodden man, Victor gives Igor a name, “cures” him of his affliction, and sets him forth on a path of medical wonder and science, particularity one of electricity and reanimating dead tissue. Igor, absorbing all of this knowledge like a sponge, helps Victor create life from a concocted cornucopia of chimpanzee carcasses. Igor also re-introduces himself to Lorelei (now that he’s cleaned up and no longer hunched-over) and they’re hitting it off nicely.

Meanwhile, the religiously-zealot police inspector Roderick Turpin (Andrew Scott) is hot on the trail of missing dead animal parts all over London and is zeroing in on Victor and his blasphemous experiments. With the dead chimp brought to life a success, it catches the eye of super-rich medical student Rafferty (Bronson Webb) who decides to fund the boys further research. The next logical step? Create a man!

But while Victor and Igor go to work designing a huge creature, they run into a snag: Turpin has gone crazy and tries to shut down Victor’s workhouse and laboratory. On the run from the law, Victor and Igor hide out at Rafferty’s palatial estate, but it’s there that Igor decides that the experiment has gone too far and they part ways. Victor goes off to a secluded Scottish castle to complete his masterpiece and Igor, nearly killed by Rafferty, goes back to Lorelei. But his emotions get the better of him and he takes off for the castle to try to reason with Victor over his grand experiment of life over death. Boy, is he in for a surprise!

Directed by Paul McGuigan, who had previously directed many of the BBC’s Sherlock episodes, he’s obviously graduated from the Guy Ritchie school of directing, as his direction is quite similar, even down to the title cards. Imaginative, broad strokes in camera angles, and stop/slow-mo action scenes punctuate this movie, just like in Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey, Jr. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you.

The screenplay by Max Landis (son of famed director John Landis) is terrific and he redeems himself from that lousy American Ultra script he penned earlier this year. It’s a curious and perfect balance of science-fiction, comedy, and period costume drama with snappy dialoge and some superb acting thrown in for good measure.

This is some of the best work of Radcliffe since his 2014 Horns and McAvoy’s since The Last King of Scotland. Together they share great chemistry without overshadowing the other. This isn’t a comical re-telling like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, nor is it a straight and serious by-the-book saga like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (see below). This is a whole new departure for the story and one that hits on all marks. Atmospheric, great cinematography by Fabian Wagner, and check out the CGI backdrop of 1800’s London. Very nice.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

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There have been a ton of movies depicting the Frankenstein legend, comedic and tragic, animated, fantasy, and science-fiction, but one of the very best that keeps closest to the novel and has a brilliant cast and script, is this choice little nugget from producer Francis Ford Coppola.

Starring the great Kenneth Branagh as an obsessed Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Tom Hulce as Dr. Henry Clerval, his BFF and assistant, this tragic tale begins at the Arctic Circle where Victor is pursuing his “abomination”; known as The Creation (Robert DeNiro). Almost dead from his searching, he takes refuge on board a ship and unravels the complex tale to the captain (Aidan Quinn).

We go back to Victor’s youth were he is a wide-eyed doctor, not afraid to ask the hard (and dangerous) questions about life and death along with his best bud, Henry. His obsessive zeal catches the attention of another doctor, Professor Waldman (John Cleese) whose crazy experiments with electricity and dead tissue have cost him his medical occupation. After Waldman’s murder, Victor carries on his lunatic experiments and sews body parts together and, along with electric eels, fresh embryonic fluid, and a myriad of steam punk metal contraptions, he succeeds in bringing a dead man to life!

But his creature, a hideous looking thing, escapes and Victor assumes it dies of the cholera epidemic in town. Victor gets married to his sweetie, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) and has no idea The Creation is wandering around the country. It returns and demands that Victor make him a companion. . . or else! When Victor denies The Creation this request, the monster kills Elizabeth. Victor, not wanting to have fresh body parts go to waste, and also wanting to satisfy his Creation’s blood lust, makes a women for his Creation. But this new Bride doesn’t like what she sees (understandably) and commits suicide, much to the horror of everyone.

We then circle back to the beginning where Victor is tracking his Creation to kill it, but failing in the process. The ending is just as the 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote it; a bittersweet conclusion for both man and man-made monster.

Directed by Branagh with a dynamite adapted screenplay by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and Steph Lady, this atmospheric and visceral tale has Coppola’s high production values for sets and costuming. Match that with great SPFX and make-up and a cracker-jack cast, and you’ve got a ‘period’ picture with a guttural, raw base. No clowning around dialogue or fantastic, wild looking goofy sets with spinning electrical wheels and sparking Jacob’s Ladder’s; just a powerful telling of the classic story.

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