Saturday morning and my kid has a play date. What can I do with myself for a few hours? I could go see Victor Frankenstein. I saw the trailer and.. well, let’s see what else is out – drama I”m not in the mood for, comedy I’m not interested in, movies I’ve already seen, movies that aren’t playing until after the play date is over. Victor Frankenstein it is!
The familiar character of Frankenstein is given a sort-of origin story that is told from Igor’s perspective. Igor starts as a nameless circus clown whose schtick can be summed up as: the crippled hunchback that everybody else in the circus kicks and punches in the face (much to the delight of Victorian audiences). He’s also the circus doctor and sketcher of anatomy. One night Victor Frankenstein (the guy from the title!) comes to buy some dead lion parts and he witnesses a trapeze artist fall from her perch. He, as a medical student, and not-yet-Igor rush to help her. Igor springs into action to save the young woman with Frankenstein’s help. Impressed, Frankenstein breaks soon-to-be-Igor out of his circus cage (where you keep clowns, natch). They are accused by the circus folk of stealing money and killing a man. Hence, they become fugitives. Back at Frankenstein’s laboratory/apartment, he attacks the clown with a huge needle and drains the abscess on his back. He wasn’t a hunchback, guys! He had an abscess! He dubs him “Igor” and appoints him his assistant. Together they re-animate a collection of parts that mostly resembles a rotten chimp. They move on to bigger, more against-God things from there. Much to the consternation of the obsessive, pious inspector tracking them down. Oh, and Igor gets re-acquainted with the trapeze artist and they hit it off romantically. Because, why not?
Did we (the people) ask for another Frankenstein adaptation? Did we ask for a modern special effects reel set in steam punk times? (i’m assuming that is a real historical era) Do we need another Guy Richie-fication of another period piece? The answer to all three is a resounding, “No.” Does that make Victor Frankenstein a bad movie? Not necessarily. Is it a good movie? Certainly not. But, taken at face value, it’s an entertaining way to waste a couple of hours (well, 109 minutes anyway) while you eat popcorn or iron shirts or catch up on Facebook or whatever (depending on where you’re watching it, of course). The performances are appropriately over-the-top and the effects are decent. The 1st creature that Frankenstein and Igor create is objectively nasty in more than one sense of the word. The world of Victorian (or maybe pre-Victorian) England is muddy and cramped and almost entirely non-offensive CGI. And when the main attraction shows up at the end of the film, he/it is effectively monstrous. The filmmakers’ focus on Igor is mildly intriguing. Though it reveals a cinematic (or pop culture) research background rather than a literary one. (Igor was not in the novel) That’s fine, but the film doesn’t do much to give viewers a novel experience. We know this story. In fact, Igor, in voice over, mentions this fact a couple of times during the film. This is where a reliance on the original source material (the book) would have benefited the production. No film has truly captured the tragedy of the brought-into-this-world-and-abandoned monster (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tried) as it was written. Instead, we get a great big battle scene. Oh well, emotional impact is hard. At least my shirts are ironed now.
THE FINAL CUT: Victor Frankenstein is a forgettable action adaptation of a beloved genre story that features some decent effects and hammy (in a fun way) performances. Frankenstein completists may feel compelled to spend the money to see it in theaters but the casually interested can wait until it hits Netflix.