Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was written in the 1800s, a tale so old that it has inspired several reincarnations of the characters as well as various spin-offs and alternate storylines. Through the years, movie studios have attempted to create a film that encapsulates the depth of the story while adding their own fresh spin to entice new audiences.
Only a few have been successful enough to register on the radar of most people, but hope for reanimation has been restored with Victor Frankenstein. Years from now, “they will remember the monster, not the man,” Daniel Radcliffe laments as Dr. Frankenstein’s associate, Igor. This iteration is more of an origin story of Victor himself rather than a tale of the monster he made, and it's safe to say it effectively reclaims the name "Frankenstein."
1. Cool Steampunk Elements
From beginning to end, this movie is visually stunning. Whether it's the early scenes of a Victorian-day circus or the electrifying climax at a Scottish castle, it’s hard not to appreciate the culmination of special effects, scenery, props, and costuming. Upon entering the eclectic home of Victor Frankenstein, there are plenty of anatomical sketches, curious machinery, and bizarre knickknacks which appeal to the steampunk genre without ever overwhelming the frame. Slightly reminiscent of Moulin Rouge, the Victorian fashion is absolutely enchanting, capturing the recognizable period in the various suits donned by Victor and Igor and in the lush gowns worn by Lorelei.
2. A Charming Dr. Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein is a story about the man who infamously created life out of death through science. I, for one, have never been a fan of gratuitous CGI or action as a substitute for dialogue and acting. With that said, James McAvoy delivers an excellent performance, bringing Victor Frankenstein’s character to life with wit, charm, and maniacal ambition. His well-timed humor and shining intellect shine through his obviously dangerous obsession to challenge science and nature, making him a fascinating and likable antihero.
3. Daniel Radcliffe in a New Major Movie Role
Daniel Radcliffe has been very careful selecting roles after his years in Harry Potter, and this is the closest he's come to returning to a more fantastical genre. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any movies with Daniel Radcliffe outside of the Harry Potter series, but his role in Victor Frankenstein proves that he can stand on his own as an actor. Not only does he do a great job of expressing Igor's nuanced character development throughout the film, his chemistry with McAvoy is just so refreshingly fun to watch that the entire movie becomes that much more enjoyable.
5. Unexpected Humor
Lots of film critics have already gone to complain about how this movie doesn’t fit into the “horror” genre, or any real genre for that matter. I’m not big into labels anyway so that didn’t bother me, but I was happily surprised by the film's witty dialogue and the unexpected humor. You probably wouldn't assume that there would be many lighthearted moments in a movie like this, but, surprisingly, they worked so well. Victor’s eccentric behavior and humorous persona almost make you forgive the fact that he is an egotistical lunatic.
5. Classic Themes
This movie revisits the debate of science versus nature. When and at what cost is it acceptable to push the boundaries of the natural order? Driven by curiosity, ego, and guilt, Victor is consumed by his need to make his dream a reality. This perspective is in contrast to the London inspector who clutches his religious beliefs like a true calling from God, and this motivates him to stop whatever is brewing in Victor’s laboratory at any cost. Those in the middle, including Igor and Lorelei, debate the moral implications of these “unnatural” scientific advances. With the polarization of political beliefs separating society further today than it has in decades, each character gives voice to the various opinions which fit into our modern society just as they had over 200 years ago.
Though some critics may not feel this movie measures up to the 1931 classic Frankenstein, this film certainly appeals to a newer audience who enjoy the likes of Van Helsing or Sherlock Holmes. Let’s face it: most of the younger generation will not rush to watch an 80-year-old, black-and-white film, and even fewer will be inclined to read the novel. I believe this remake will inspire an interest in this enduring subject matter. If you’re looking for a movie that is fun and entertaining with two very handsome stars, I suggest you hit the theater for this reinvigorated monster of a film.