Ignore the Rotten Tomatoes critics for this one, I implore you.
To begin, the acting is stellar. James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are on-point (I really mean it, Radcliffe is clearly giving it his all as Igor and McAvoy is reveling in the mad scientist fun of Frankenstein, though he does give the character surprising layers), Andrew Scott is a GREAT detective who really embodies the greatest fears towards science of the time period, and Jessica Findlay plays a VERY believable love interest (my theory is that she, in real life, is such a big fan of Radcliffe that it was easy for her to slip into the fantasy of being his bed partner). Basically, I bought every character on their own and every relationship that connected them. That is a rarity, and good job on Victor Frankenstein for achieving such a feat.
Next up: the story. The story directly references and plays on the fact that most people only know the plot for its monster, but no one ever stops to study the scientist behind it (hence why most people don’t realize Frankenstein is the scientist, not the scientist’s monster). As such, the core of the story is Frankenstein and Igor’s relationship and how they mesh as a dynamic duo, and it works. Not to mention there are a lot of backstory plot threads that are woven into the overarching narrative MASTERFULLY, so that you feel you understand every bit of Frankenstein’s drive in life to the point where you identify with his radical goals. In that, again, the movie lives up to its name: Victor Frankenstein is a movie about the man, not the monster, and it honestly makes you care a lot more about him than his creation by the time the credits roll.
The writing, for the most part, is stellar. One particular bit of dialogue has been etched into my memory; it’s when *SPOILER ALERT* Andrew Scott’s detective character yells something along the lines of “This is Satan’s work!” at James McAvoy, to which the latter responds “Pfft. There is no Satan! There is no God! There is only humanity. Only ME!” And with that, he flips the switch that directs all the electricity into his monster’s heart, kick-starting the final throwdown. *SPOILER OVER* That exchange was an absolutely perfect lead-in to the big finale, and really hit the major themes of this movie on the head in one condensed, bad-ass confrontational bit of dialogue. And well before that we see some great dialogue from Frankenstein, especially in a party scene where he’s discussing science well ahead of his time. At one point he starts talking about taking sex out of the procreation equation, and how he could simply implant sperm into women’s *scene tactically cuts away at that exact moment*, which was a great chuckle. Then shortly after, he has a PHENOMENAL mini-monologue where he talks about why he’s so hell-bent on creating life. “A murder victim could come back as a witness against his own killer! A war veteran internally spliced open with shrapnel could not only live, but walk again!” All very valid points as to why he wants to create life. But then, in the final act during his and Radcliffe’s biggest heart-to-heart, he really hits home: *SPOILER ALERT* “I need to redress the balance” he says, referring to how he feels responsible for his brother’s death when they were kids, so his entire life mission is to create a life from nothing and give it to the universe in order to balance the scale. But minutes later, he looks into the unflinching monster’s eyes, and realizes he’s not yet equipped to create what we perceive to be life, something more than just a pulse and basic motor functions. *SPOILER OVER* Kind of unrelated, but I like how Frankenstein’s monster isn’t inherently violent at the start; it takes them attacking him to trigger the violence. If you’re part of the TL;DR crowd, here’s what I just said in a nutshell: the movie makes you think about life and what it means to be living. It’s powerful content.
Other major pros this movie has going for it: the editing is super slick. I rarely mention editing as it’s hardly ever this noticeably good, but Victor Frankenstein has some of the snazziest montages of any movie this year. Couple that with the EXCELLENT soundtrack (and I mean excellent; I’ll be listening to this film’s score for weeks after tonight), and you’ve got some really well-done, sexily executed cinematography on display. A mix between design and editing is present in the cool anatomical overlays that are displayed throughout the movie, showing you what Igor and Frankenstein are thinking when they’re working on their science, beautifully illustrated in dozens of moving hand-drawn sketches. Speaking of pretty visuals, the set designs are on-point and look like a slight caricature (the tone of the whole movie) of 1700’s London. And while we’re on the subject of design, I’d like to commend the team for making Frankenstein’s monster a REAL monster, not a CGI disaster. It’s a practical costume, guys. It looks real and freaky. Though an earlier experiment in the film IS CGI, and it honestly looks great as well.
The only area I can understand anyone complaining about is the villains (two of them); specifically, their motivations. Basically, they’re a little rushed. But that’s because the story isn’t about them and for sake of time they kind of had to go from point A to B without a whole lot of dawdling. And it’s not like their transformations are unbelievable; both of the villains DO reach their logical conclusions in terms of how they grow as characters. It’s just that we don’t get to see excessive amounts of the change happening, as we might in other movies more focused on the villain vs hero struggle rather than this movie’s primary hero vs morals conflict.
Certain scenes of this movie were so well shot that I’ll have the imagery and soundtrack echoing in my head for the rest of the night. Max Landis, the writer, did a fine job. Director Paul McGuigan did as well. The stars were phenomenal. The editor, Andrew Hulme, nailed it. Composer Craig Armstrong (who previously worked on The Great Gatsby!!) absolutely aced his role. In short, it’s just a great movie. The final frame leaves you entirely satisfied with the last two hours of your life, and really, what more can you ask for.