From Igor’s point of view he tells the story of Victor Frankenstein. Igor is a young man with a distortion who crosses paths with Frankenstein, where the latter is visiting the London circus. Medical student Victor takes Igor, who is just as intrigued with anatomy as Victor, under his wing and together they form a duo that will change history.
Just like Daniel Radcliffe’s character Igor says in the intro:
“You know this story. The crack if lightning. A mad genius. An unholy creation. The world, of course, remembers the monster, not the man. But sometimes, when you look closely, there’s more to a tale. Sometimes the monster is the man.”
The reason for director Paul McGuigan to shine a different light on Victor Frankenstein and his passion to create life. You might know McGuigan as the a director of the masterful Lucky Number Slevin. But he mainly works on TV series. The two main characters are played by Daniel Radcliffe as Frankenstein’s assistant Igor, and James McAvoy plays the title role. Both actors are known from a large franchise – Harry Potter and X-Men – but this does not affect the film. In fact we see very different characters which makes you almost forget where you have seen the actors before. This is a good thing. Especially since Radcliffe has ‘suffered’ from his Potter image, but when you see him as Igor, you don’t see Harry the wizard.
There are several films about the character Frankenstein, it is therefore normal that one is more familiar with the character than Frankenstein’s assistant Igor. The title gives the impression that the film shines a new light on the genius Frankenstein, but the most important character is Igor. Who is Igor, who was Igor, how does he meet Victor Frankenstein and what does he thinks of his plans? The film shows us several opinions about Frankenstein’s practices: the rich lender Finnegan, the two inspectors, fellow students, Igor’s sweetheart and even Victor’s father let his feelings know. Based on this aspect the title is quite misleading, since we learn little new about Dr. Frankenstein. His character does show some developments towards the end, when he realizes that not everything is as it seems.
The film starts with an introduction of Igor, which feels almost magical. In rainy London, where the sun never seems to shine, Igor is at that point a nameless circus artist with a hump. He is fascinated by the human body and how it works. When the beautiful acrobat Lorelei falls, Igor comes to her aid immediately. This is also the time Igor and Victor meet. Which follows is an escape what arouses the attention of two London inspectors. This magical first part is immediately over and what follows is more horrifying. Medical student Victor has a rich background and some interesting ideas as well. The inspector who thinks the worst after animal parts from the London Zoo goes missing, is inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott). He even mentions wicked actions which are against the will of God. Someone who has a very different opinion is Finnegan (Freddie Cox) who becomes the moneylender to Frankenstein’s freaky project. Finnegan is a dubious character who makes the film just a bit more darker, but he disappears just as quickly as he appeared. This is a shames, since he is the one who helps Frankenstein to complete his masterpiece.
Another character who disappears from the scene so quickly as well, is Frankenstein’s father. Games of Thrones star Charles Dance is seen in one scene to give his son a lesson. But since his words doesn’t affect Victor nor the rest of the story, you might wonder why he was in the film in the first place. Another unnecessary character is Igor’s girlfriend Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay). Except that she give the character Igor more depth, her character doesn’t add much to the story. Igor doesn’t need her to realize that what he and Victor are doing is not quite right. Overall, the acting is fine, but the writers had to put more work in the characters and their development.
As for the camera work and special effects, it’s all well put together. Especially the first fifteen minutes of the film look almost magical with the beautiful soundtrack in the background, composed by Craig Armstrong. The special effects that show the movement of the muscles, or how it is seen by Igor and Victor, is also very fascinating. The first creation of Frankenstein looks very monstrous and his house looks both eerie and beautiful. However, we see little of the creations, and Frankenstein’s greatest masterpiece is only there for a short moment. This felt almost as an anticlimax. The DVD gives the possibility to look behind the scenes through photographs of the set, and a making off.
Victor Frankenstein is overall a fairly entertaining film, but the title is somewhat misleading. Not Frankenstein but his assistant Igor is the most interesting character in the film. Daniel Radcliffe, who has no problems with his Harry Potter image, makes a great performance. Also no negativity towards James McAvoy’s acting as Frankenstein. However, his character not innovative and is the only character who is experiencing developments is Igor. The film has an almost magical start with beautiful camera work and special effects, but then it gets darker. It never gets really creepy and unfortunately we see too little of Frankenstein’s monstrous creations. The ending even feels like an anticlimax. It is clear Frankenstein has some more puzzling to do, but it is not necessarily to make a film about it.