So the most recent adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic, and one of the first and greatest science fiction books was, I have to say, a let down.
The casting is pretty hot – Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy but the plot was weak. Yes, it’s Frankenstein in that genius and obsessed doctor creates monster which promptly goes on the rampage. No it’s not Frankenstein in that there is not really any of the tragedy, the vision, the emotion, the sheer awesomeness of the original story. It’s a story of life, death and everything in between; of hope and despair; and of obsession and the descent into madness.
One feels a lot of sympathy with both Frankenstein and Adam (the creature), in the original tale, and many of the screen adaptations (Boris Karloff, Kenneth Brannagh/RobertDe Niro). Both are misunderstood, rejected and feared but both, in essence are good men turned bad through circumstance, and seeking the answer of what is life, and the soul.
This particular movie seems to be a ‘who is the biggest crazy head?’ competition. We have crazy doctors, crazy policemen, crazy friends, crazy circus people….
To start with we see Daniel Radcliffe as the hunchback clown with no name. He’s also the circus doctor (obviously…) So this is someone whose basically been raised in the circus, is bottom of the pecking order and has quite a severe disability. Remember this is the 18th Century when many people were illiterate. Apparently he steals the books but it’s not clear where from. So this nameless clown/freak teaches himself to read and write, is a talented anatomist (in a time when such things were, if not illegal, then certainly pretty taboo.
The love interest (a trapeze artist) goes splat (bad health and safety from the circus) and guess who comes to her aid? Yep you guessed it. Oh and Victor Frankenstein (medical student) who happens to be in the circus trying to buy bits of dead animals from his ‘research’.
OK, so pretty girl is rescued from death and a life in the circus and hunchback becomes Igor. That’s another thing. So we see Radcliffe at the start with a serious deformity, difficulty walking, and running, breathlessness etc., which he’s had for 18 years. Now I’m not a doctor but I know a bit and you can’t just fix a condition like that overnight. Muscles and tendons would be misaligned, the spinal column is bent, there may be nerve damage. The bow legs the character has and the strange way of walking would likely take months of physio to fix…
He is ‘rescued’ by Dr F, they leg it from the angry circus folk and trash the circus. Apparently someone is killed in the escape but that only comes to light after.
Anyway as it happens Igor is not a ‘real hunchback’. The hunch is a cyst, not a true curvature and so with a syringe, a bucket of goo and a home-made backbrace our sidekick is cured…
Igor is not his real name – that’s actually the alcoholic opium fiend who sometimes shares the bloody massive apartment Frankenstein lives in – we never met the real Igor except as a frozen eye-less corpse. But all of his clothes just happen to fit our cured hunchback/clown/would-be doctor. Convenient. So Mr Was-Hunchback is now Igor if someone comes asking awkward questions.
Religious obsessed widower policeman Roderick Turpin (Andrew Scott) who wavers between the carnies are all mean and picked on said hunchback and locked him in a cage (how does he know? It’s pure guesswork) to everyone is working for Satan. The copper puts two and two together and works out the weirdo whose buying/stealing animal body parts is the same person who ‘attacked’ the circus. He then embarks on a crusade against the atheist Frankenstein.
The monster when we first see him is a chimp/lion/homunculous which stinks of death and on resurrections goes nuts and savages everyone. Good start….
We then meet Finnegan – a ‘friend’ of Victor’s who is rather one dimensional. He’s the unpleasant aristocrat who wants all the glory and none of the gory. He’s obnoxious, but I assume is meant to be.
Mr Policeman gets too close, raiding Frankenstein’s lodging and asking awkward questions – mostly about God. F and Igor leg it, Policeman gets caught in one of the machines and his hand gets crushed. Dismissed from the force for entering the premises of the rich and threatening the powerful (including Finnegan), suffering the loss of a hand and eye, mental illness and religious obsession. Of course this doesn’t stop him pestering the doctor and Igor.
Finnegan smuggles the duo out to somewhere really obvious and now insane copper, plus assorted minions take on Victor, Igor, Finnegan and assorted minions. Big monster wakes up, might pissed off. Bad guys (whichever they are) beat up good guys and some people get squished, throttled, or roasted. Hero escapes, monster we have seen for maybe 2 minutes, gets whacked, evil/insane policemen is roasted, evil friend is gone. Igor goes off with the acro – who somehow managed to find a rich patron, and Dr F is free and working on his next project.
Too many plot holes/conveniences
Misses the point – the monster is supposed to be a character who evokes sympathy not a mindless killer. Frankenstein is supposed to be genius/troubled but overall tragic. He’s not.
Weak characterisations. I found it hard to care about the characters – perhaps Igor a bit as he’s just a pawn in a much bigger game, but not anyone else. The characters are rather flat. There’s little emotion (except obsession and self pity).
There’s very little suspense and it’s not a horror by any definition. It’s not sci-fi, it’s not fantasy, it’s not historical, it’s not a costume drama.
Erm… special effects are OK
McAvoy and Radcliffe are easy on the eye.
Sorry they are all I can think of…
Rating One Star. Would I watch it again – nope.
There are much better adaptations, and much cleverer ones.