I love the tag line, Witness the Origin of a Monster and his creation. This was billed as horror film believe it or not, though I was expecting something along the lines of Stephen Sommers The Mummy when I walked in, so more along the lines of a horror comedy, this was reinforced by the PG-13 rating, the trailer above, and just the general tone of the two leads as they were pitching the film. Now obviously I am a fan of all things Horror, and even had the opportunity to watch the original in the theatre – and highly recommend it.
“It’s alive, it’s alive. In the name of God I know what it feels like to be God…” is the original line uttered by the mad Doctor; just how mad was this one?
The movie was written entirely for the screen by Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra) and directed by Paul McGuigan best known for such films as Push and Lucky Number Slevin; which are two entirely underrated films. Suffice to stay these two have a limited body of work, but what work they do have I really enjoy. Now, I did state I was expecting the Mummy, but what I got was closer to Sherlock Holmes meets The Wolfman (2010). An interesting view of that wet gritty London atmosphere during the turn of the century we get to see more of each year as films come out for that period. The film, unlike Lucky Number Slevin, is not subtle; nor does it try to be. It keeps it’s tongue dancing at it’s cheek without sticking it firmly there. It takes itself seriously, but not too seriously. There is an interesting balance that I am still not 100% sure worked. One thing I did find that worked rather well is the characters of Victor (McAvoy) and that of Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott). These two are brilliant opposite sides of the same coin. Supremely intelligent to the point they nearly dwarf those around them. Perceptive, driven, and most of all firmly believing they are in the right. What makes them opposite is that Turpin is a man of faith as as a well as the man of the Law. Frankenstein is a man of Science and a man who no longer believes in God. They show the extremes of both sides….and that both sides can have unreasonable extremes.
I don’t consider it a spoiler to say that Victor Frankenstein is a man of extremes. The story is over a century old, it’s iconic, it’s part of our culture and even parlance as the mad scientist started with him. How they portray the madness that grips him and what drives him is what varies from film to film. A God complex in the original work is pretty much standard, but the levels of madness, depravity, and obsession change from narrative to narrative. This one truly touches on the near mental illness levels of obsessive compulsive behavior, or even perhaps addiction, which McAvoy (X-Men Days of Future Past, Wanted) runs with like he’s being chased by Usain Bolt. What separates this from other similar works is the focus on Igor, as played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, Horns). Most movies focus on the Man and the Monster. This one focuses on the Man and his Assistant and Partner. They make Igor more than a hunched servant uttering “yes master” or simply doing the bidding of the Doctor. He is an integral part of the project and the moral compass of the film. The chemistry between Radcliffe and McAvoy is beyond the pale and I have a feeling that Tumblr ships are sailing as I write this review.
Who knew that with a few small tweaks that this could be a romantic comedy between the two?
From a technical standpoint the movie begins to run into issues. It plays a little close to the Sherlock films side of things and has some enormous pacing issues. The movie runs short at 1 hour 49 minutes, but even with that the pace is just a touch too plodding to really sit back and let myself have a good time. This isn’t to say that I didn’t, but there were moments where it ran too slow and my interest waned. It hurts the movie quite a bit. There are jumps of logic and timing that really just do not work. That said, they use a brilliant technique to avoid too much gore. I was really pleased to see it and did not find it distracting in the slightest. I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss The Creature. It was large. It was in charge. It was not CG. It did look like some CG overlay in a shot or two, but otherwise it was impressive when you finally get to see it.
I had fun. My friend and I were laughing at the end, mostly at the two mains and how much fun it looked like they had. There are some really subtle references to the original classic, and even a few to Young Frankenstein. It isn’t a great film as the pacing truly hurt it, but it wasn’t a bad one. I can’t put my finger on what was missing, but something was. It’s kinda a mess, but nothing in the movie particularly annoyed me, except that it just felt overall kinda “Welp”.
If you are looking for something this year to watch other than Hunger Games, until December 18th, this might be it.I wish that I could give a strong recommendation, but I can’t.
Potential reviews coming that might be worth something:
- Legend (Tom Hardy)
- Krampus (by the makers of Trick R Treat)