Review: Victor Frankenstein Is So Camp You’ll Get A Merit Badge For Watching It
Title: Victor Frankenstein
Director: Paul McGuigan
Screenwriter: Max Landis (screenplay and screen story) and Mary Shelley (novel ‘Frankenstein’)
Principal Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Andrew Scott, Jessica Brown Findlay, Bronson Webb, and Daniel Mays
Summary: Told from Igor’s perspective, we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man – and the legend – we know today.
I’m not even going to lie; I’m a huge sucker for camp. I know that a lot of people are either unable to recognize camp or only recognize it in musicals, but when it comes to movies I love campy movies. I’m not sure how (since there is a lot of marketing for it) but I had managed to avoid almost all of the trailers for Victor Frankenstein which meant that all I knew about it was the cast and the poster I would see around the theaters while at screenings. I’m quite fond of both of the male leads though, James McAvoy particularly, so I figured that watching two great actors run around a terrible movie might make it good, somehow.
Victor Frankenstein is a bad movie, but between James McAvoy’s acting and the ridiculous plot it evolves into something so campy you could get a merit badge for watching it.
I’ve always been a bit of an English nerd and as a female who also wants to be a writer I have a lot of admiration for Mary Shelley. I also had a feeling, just by looking at who they cast and what the movie seemed to be about, that Victor Frankenstein was going to completely ignore the source material when it came to overall themes. In the book, the point is that the man becomes more of a monster than the monster. While Victor Frankenstein sort of plays with that theme by the end the movie it’s much more interested in the relationship between Victor (James McAvoy) and Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). For the second time this year, the first time being The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I made a note while watching the movie that “the homo-eroticism is strong with this one”. There is lots of staring at each other and Victor is erratic enough that he tends to be on the touchy side. Much like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. good chemistry can help a mediocre (or in this case, bad) movie along.
If the world gets nothing more out of this movie it’s that people need to give James McAvoy the opportunity to chew the life out of the scenery and then bring it back to life again because he wasn’t done. I haven’t seen someone do such a “go for broke, I’m having the time of my life” performance in a while and it was as if McAvoy was the only one who knew he was in a campy movie. The only other performance like this that springs to my mind is Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire in 2014. That was also a bad movie made strangely watchable by having a lead that is compelling even if they aren’t very deep. Radcliffe gets the much smaller role, he’s the straight man to McAvoy’s insanity, but they play off of each other so well that it doesn’t really matter if the dialogue or story they are in makes sense or has nothing to do with the book Frankenstein.
All of that being said this movie is ridiculous. Andrew Scott makes his second debut in so many months as Inspector Turpin, a detective who (rightfully) begins to suspect that Victor and Igor are up to something that isn’t quite legal. He’s the one who spouts the “we must not tamper in God’s domain” that comes in with this sort of movie but he’s only a villain in that he goes beyond the bounds of the law to try and stop Victor and Igor. Director Paul McGuigan has created a strangely beautiful pile of nonsense for this movie. There were so many moments that I’m not sure were supposed to be funny but were, nevertheless. It probably ran a little long but I was interested enough in the chemistry between McAvoy and Radcliffe that it didn’t really matter. The only woman in the movie Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findley) has no purpose aside from being a love interest which was disappointing to say the least.
Victor Frankenstein is not a good movie but I haven’t seen a movie made strangely watchable by its complete refusal to indulge in even a hint of irony. It’s that lack of irony that makes me think that this falls easily into the “camp” genre. If that sort of thing is your cup of tea you’ll probably have as much fun as I did. If it isn’t then there are plenty of good movies coming out this week that you could go see instead.