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Film review: Victor Frankenstein - Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy struggle to spark

Reboot of Mary Shelley classic marred by hammy acting and unconvincing subplots

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2015, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 10:23am

Film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s classic novel about a scientist and the monster he creates are almost as old as cinema itself – with directors as diverse as James Whale, Mel Brooks and Kenneth Branagh all bringing their own spin to this fusion of gothic literature, science and horror.

This latest effort, directed by Scottish filmmaker Paul McGuigan, is an attempt to bolt together past interpretations into something fresh. Penned by Max Landis, son of the great film director John (American Werewolf In London), this so-called “regeneration” is a real hotchpotch.

Set in Victorian London, James McAvoy plays the titular doctor, with just the right streak of insanity, as he looks to bring dead flesh back to life – first with a monkey and then with a man. Accompanying him is Daniel Radcliffe’s Igor, a circus freak rescued by Frankenstein; trying to stop them is Andrew Scott’s god-fearing police inspector.

Like Scott, McGuigan is a veteran of the BBC’s Sherlock and he infuses the story with jolts of energy which should be familiar to fans of that show. Unfortunately, for all its madcap moments, it’s also hampered by unconvincing subplots (notably, a tepid romance involving Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay as Igor’s circus love Lorelei) and increasingly hammy acting.

The sets and visual effects are evocative, if hardly spectacular, and the overall piece never quite knits together with any great satisfaction – neither horrifying nor off-kilter enough. At least McAvoy avoids the Branagh school of Dr. Frankenstein acting and manages to keep his shirt on.

Victor Frankenstein opens on November 26