Tuesday, February 23, 2016

There Wolf, There Castle, or Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein

I was going to call this post Harry Potter’s Mary Reily (1996), but I figured that was too obscure a reference, even for you.  Also, as much as I enjoy referring to actors not by their proper names but by their most famous roles, it seems unkind when Daniel Radcliffe is making every effort to distance himself from his time at Hogwart’s by appearing in movies like The Woman in Black (2012) and Horns (2014).
However, much like Julia Roberts as a servant in Dr. Jekyll’s house (played by John Malkovich, no less), in Victor Frankenstein (2015) Daniel Radcliffe plays Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s faithful assistant.  He is first seen at the circus, loping around the big top, twisted and malformed until James McAvoy, playing the eccentric Victorian mad scientist Victor Frankenstein rescues and cures him in a quick montage.
Now standing straight, with a shower and some new clothes, Igor is able to assume his more modern role as an intellectual partner and medical prodigy than the traditional assistant/ grave robber.  Apart from this interesting twist, Victor Frankenstein is a classic Victorian London steampunk horror, with high collars and top hats, CGI fog, and a lab full of brass oversized gears and crackling electrical arcs.
Like every good start-up company Igor and Victor produce an impressive proof of concept monster to raise funding, a part lion and chimpanzee “homunculus” that escapes from one of those grimy Victorian operating theaters and runs amuck in the halls of the hospital.   It looks and moves like a digital effect but is nonetheless authentic, creative and more interesting than the actual monster.
The monster Victor subsequently creates is more grounded in science, with two sets of lungs and an extra heart to compensate for its larger frame looks like a scarred bodybuilder, but with the traditional grunts and head-bolts. There’s a clunky and distracting side-plot to co-opt Frankenstein’s research and build a Victorian super-soldier that threatens to take the movie into The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) territory, but it is quickly discarded.
Victor Frankenstein also features Jessica Brown Findlay aka Lady Sybil Crawley as Lorelei, a friend from the circus and Mark Gatiss who you know as Moriarity, as the devout Police Inspector Finnegan so the filmmakers can bring up that old science vs religion theme that must remain central to any Frankenstein movie.
Comparisons with FRANK3N5T31N (2015) are inevitable though perhaps unfair.  Victor Frankenstein had a much bigger budget, used effectively to make a movie that is superior in every way.  With gorgeous costumes, authentic sets, and a classical sweeping soundtrack, you can tell the filmmakers have affection for the genre and a commitment to the story that was sorely lacking in Carrie-Anne Moss’ version.  If you like Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, and if you don’t I’m not sure we can be friends, you’ll enjoy this movie.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.