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Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox, Charles Dance, Daniel Mays, Callum Turner, Bronson Webb, Robin Pearce, Alistair Petrie, Spencer Wilding, Guillaume Delaunay
Director: Paul McGuigan
If this miserable 110 minutes of cinematic drivel had been released way back on January 1st, Victor Frankenstein would still have instantly qualified as one of the worst – if not the worst – films of 2015.
Let’s face it.
Mary Shelley’s classic creation has been busy on screen since 1910 and has survived close encounters of the witless kind with Abbott and Costello and the Carry On crew.
Here, however, while the Creature does briefly and unimpressively come to life to no real dramatic effect after what seems like hours of increasingly desperate hokum, the film itself remains resolutely inert.
Given the witlessness of Max Landis’ desperate screenplay, that’s hardly surprising. His key concept – that a hunchbacked circus freak is the intellectual catalyst for the eponymous Victor Frankenstein’s attempts to create life and prove immortality is passible – is even less convincing that Daniel Radcliffe’s acutely embarrassing attempts at acting.
(After this disaster, perhaps he should consider joining remaking 1986’s cult shocker Troll - the first film to feature as its hero a teenage wizard named Harry Potter Jr).
James McAvoy’s mad scientist Doctor Victor Frankenstein rescues hunchback Igor (Radcliffe) from his circus hell after he proves his medical genius by saving the life aerialist Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay, bring back Downton Abbey!) whom he loves when she falls from her trapeze. And, named Igor by his saviour, Radcliffe has his hunch drained by McAvoy and straightens up to be transformed into a long-haired Harry Potter clone dedicated to helping the Doctor discover the secret of eternal life without giving anything approaching a good, let along convincing, performance.
In fact sadly both leading actors signally fail to rise to the occasion.
Landis, and equally desperate director Paul McGuigan, desperately needed help, to say nothing of another screenplay, another cast and another project.
Unlike the Creature, the film remains resolutely dead – even its inert shroud of colourful sets, moderate movie magic that recreates 19th century London, a bombastic score and passable special effects fail to get a twitch out of a cinematic corpse that has already begun to reek right from the start.
Possibly the only mildly memorable moment is when Charles Dance briefly turns up as Victor’s father and towers over the two stars which, presumably, is the reason why he has such minimal screen time.
Although Landis and McGuigan stir in God-obsessed policeman Andrew Scott on the trail of the murderous monster makers, it hardly helps. Neither do lashings of gaudy pseudo science culminating in the climactic lightning-flashing creation of the famed Frankenstein Monster (considerably less scary than the concept of having to pay to see this rubbish), as the movie fails to excite, interest or thrill – although, to be fair, the end credits came as a real treat despite being some 105 minutes too late.
Ironically, much of the dialogue qualifies perfectly as a review.
Here are just a few examples.
“You know this story”. Yes! And never told this badly before, either.
“You’re going nowhere”. So true!
“You really think you’re smart, don’t you?”. The movie proves its cast and crew quite wrong.
“You can do better than this”. Anyone could.
“This is going to hurt a little”. Watching it hurt a great deal.
“I don’t know what to do”. Patently obvious.
“Something reeks here”. It’s the film!
I’ll leave Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus author Mary Shelley to have the final word with her oh-so-apt line, “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous?”
USA 2015. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.
Review date: 05 Dec 2015