Director – Paul McGuigan
Writer – Max Landis
Starring – Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy
Due out on DVD in the UK April 11th, the latest in a long and storied tradition of adapting Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece takes inspiration from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes reboot series. More dynamic and action packed than the novel by far, arguably completely missing the point entirely, this is unfortunately a horrific re-imagining that fails to inspire new life in this now old tale.
We all know the story, so I feel no need to retell you, but be warned; if you go in expecting a direct, or even remotely faithful, retelling of Shelley’s novel you’ll be sorely disappointed. Other than the central story element of an obsessive genius trying to kill God by creating life, this bares little to no resemblance to the original story.
So much has been altered I’d bore you half to death with it all, but I can safely say the plot is more convoluted than the source text, and unnecessarily so. Whilst the story is relatively solid and certainly coherent, you can’t help draw comparisons to the novel, which had far deeper themes.
The novel was almost two stories in one; the story of the obsessive genius who creates in his relentless pursuit of immortality a monster who he quickly disowns, alongside the story of the creation spurned by its maker, a perfect metaphor for the old ditching daddy, and of a good creature turned evil by a world that shunned it. This version is framed from the point of view of Igor (Radcliffe), his infamous deformed assistance. Infamous, because he was never part of the source novel, but has seemingly become so ingrained in our culture every subsequent film adaptation has to deploy him. Yet another massive departure from the novel that feels wholly unnecessary.
Instead of the classic tale, we get a weird version from Igor’s viewpoint, as he provides a moral compass that tries desperately to keep the arrogant and eccentric Frankenstein in check. Of course, these are character traits again completely absent from the novel, as that version of Frankenstein was more excitable than evil, and never even questioned the morality of his quest until it was too late. That version of Frankenstein was a sympathetic character, this cinematic depiction is more akin to a reckless lunatic. Hardly sympathetic in any light.
Unfortunately, even if one can ignore the seemingly unnecessary alterations to the source text, and judges the film on its own merits, it’s still not that great. Especially the final treatment of the monster, whose screen time is limited and whose role is completely mishandled.
Annoying, because there are some nice little nods to the novel itself. It’s not so widely known, but the novel isn’t simply called Frankenstein, as oft stated; the full title is Frankenstein; or, The Modern Day Prometheus. In this film McAvoy’s character refers to the monster as Prometheus, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, this small nod to the novel only makes the obvious changes even worse somehow, as though you now feel like Landis had read the novel, and yet decided these changes were a good idea.
McAvoy is as spectacular as ever, remaining one of the stronger actors currently in Hollywood. Daniel Radcliffe continues to flounder post Harry Potter. He gets slightly better as the film progresses, but overall he’s not fantastic.
This is actually one of the more bizarre and poor adaptations of this classic tale I’ve yet seen. Unnecessary story alterations largely null the themes that made the novel so iconic and still a gripping yarn today, and the re-imagining isn’t particularly imaginative, leading to a dull and uninspired affair. My only suggestion is that you shun this film like the titular monster and stay well clear, do yourself a favour, and read the novel instead.