Once a prosperous farming community, Malaria comes under the spell of a devastating storm. With no way to make money farming, King Malbert concocts a plan to bring in revenue for the town by hiring Evil Scientists to create monsters capable of wreaking havoc. King Malbert uses the evil creations to blackmail outside humanity by threatening to unleash the monsters if they do not pay Malaria. Igor, voiced by John Cusack, is a member of the deformed hunchback community who is compelled to be a servant. Evil scientist, Dr. Glickenstein, dies in an accident while trying to create his invention and Igor sees his opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an evil scientist.
Dreams and Ambition
Igor is a hunchback with very lofty ambitions. He dreams of being an award winning evil scientist, but feels hopeless in his pursuit because of his social status. However, his luck turns when Dr. Glickenstein dies in an accident while creating his invention. Igor seizes his chance to create his own ultimate evil monster in order to become a world famous evil scientist. The theme of Dreams and Ambition is a very common thread throughout the original, and subsequent adaptations, of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. In Shelley's novel, the character of Victor Frankenstein is one who is full of ambition where science is concerned and dreams of being able to create and sustain life after the death of his mother. Perhaps the film with the greatest emphasis on Dreams and Ambition is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) directed by Kenneth Branagh.
While Igor is a much more lighthearted character, he retains the same ambition to forward his own career no matter what the cost. His dream of becoming a world famous evil scientist is what propels him forward as he creates his evil monster, Eva, and he goes through great lengths to succeed, while simultaneously trying to hide his creation and ambition from the outside evil scientist community. Like previous adaptations, Igor's ambition backfires and gets in the way of his success. However, unlike previous adaptations, Igor is able to overcome his mistakes and make amends with his creation and the outside world, ultimately ending on a happy note.
Overcoming stereotypes is a theme that is very apparent throughout Igor. Igor is a member of the hunchbacked community who are all derogatorily named Igor. Because of their deformities, they are outcasts in the town of Malaria and are made to serve the evil scientists. Hunchbacks who attempt to rise above their place, or those who can no longer perform their duties, are thrown into the "Igor Recycling Plant" where they will be used for spare parts. These ideas seek to comment on the treatment of minority and disability groups in society. While certain commentaries on societal outcasts can be drawn from Shelley's original novel, as well as adaptations, none are quite as blatant as Igor.
Although Igor is a hunchback, he is highly intelligent, smashing the stereotype that has been created for him. Not only is he intelligent, but he is ambitious and resourceful. Instead of admitting that his master has died and accepting his position as a servant for another evil scientist, Igor hides the fact that his master died, and attempts to create his own monster in order to win recognition and fame. He does so using the help of two of his other creations, Scamper and Brain. He is so successful, despite a few drawbacks such as Dr. Schadenfreude stealing Eva, that he does in fact create a winning monster and changes the fate of Malaria forever, proving that despite his hunchback status, he is capable of greatness.
Triumph of Good Over Evil
The Triumph of Good Over Evil is not an obvious theme throughout the original or adaptations of Frankenstein. Though the original character of Victor Frankenstein has good intentions in his study of science and his subsequent creation, the focus of the novel is on the evil that can overcome the good if one is not careful to keep his ambition and thirst for knowledge in check. Frankenstein's creation is one that leads to ultimate destruction, both of the creature's character mentally and emotionally, if not physically, and of Frankenstein as well.
Instead of starting out good, however, Igor longs to be an evil scientist and create the most evil monster of all. Unlike the original Victor, his intentions are not good from the start. His ambition comes from a place of wanting to belong. He no longer wants to be an outcast, but rather wants to be recognized for the talent and intelligence that he holds. He learns through his creation and the experiences he endures attempting to turn Eva evil and win the Evil Scientist Fair that evil is not necessarily the right thing to which he should aspire. Likewise, when it is found that King Malbert is the one behind the terrible constant storm in Malaria, Igor eventually destroys the storm rays, the cause of Malaria's downfall into evil, with the help of Eva, Scamper, and Brain. Malaria becomes the sunny place it once was and all Igors are given a rightful place in society. The lesson of Igor is then turned into the triumph of good, as Igor learns to keep his ambition at bay and use his knowledge for the good of Malaria.
Igor was received with mixed reviews. Most critics thought the film was mildly funny, but that it borrowed a bit too much overall from earlier horror films and adaptations of Frankenstein, as well as Tim Burton classics, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. While the film opened at the box office at #4, it averaged at #20 (en.wikipedia.org). The film was not nominated for any awards.
Significance of Adaptation
Although Igor is not a close adaptation of Shelley's novel, it contains several of the images, themes, and cliché characters of most of it's famous film adaptations. The character of Igor is taken from Richard Brinsley Peake's Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein (1823) and James Whale's Fritz character in his film Frankenstein (1931). The character, having been remade into various other Frankenstein adaptations including the Hammer Studios Series and Young Frankenstein (1974), is portrayed as being a simple-minded hunchback, capable only of taking orders and completing menial tasks, while aiding the "mad scientist" in his creations. Igor also borrows many images that are attributed to various adaptations of Frankenstein. The tower of Malaria which controls the laser rays that keep the storm going resembles the windmill that has come to be associated with the James Whale productions. The laboratory, as well, and the machine in which Eva is created closely resemble most of the adaptations. Eva is made from spare body parts, much like Frankenstein's creature, and with the addition of the "evil bone" retains the idea that evil can be part of one's DNA, and when added to the creature can make it become evil, like the brain of the criminal in most Frankenstein adaptations. The character of Brain, being a brain in a jar, also brings to mind the images of the various brains used throughout the adaptations.
Significance of Adaptation
While most adaptations seek to replay the story of Frankenstein in various facets, Igor takes the servant into the main focus and leads the audience on a journey into his life and aspirations. Instead of rooting for the expected heroes, the audience of Igor finds itself rooting for the underdog and cheering while Igor challenges the powers that be and the status quo. While the film was not a huge box office success, it utilized a big-name cast, including such actors as John Cusack, Molly Shannon, Steve Buscemi, and Eddie Izzard, among others. Igor may not have won awards, but it is certainly worth a watch, if not for its parody of Frankenstein clichés, then for its entertainment value.
References and Suggestions for Further Reading
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. Electronic Print
"Igor." IMBd. 6 April, 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0465502/ >
"Igor." The Terror of Tiny Toon. 6 April, 2015. <https://toonterror.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/igor/ >
"Igor." Wikipedia. 6 April, 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igor_(film)#Home_media >
Jennifer Coolidge the voice actors of Jaclyn he was played Mary Meh in The Emoji Movie, Durmessa from Hell and Back, Carol Sue from B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations and American Designer from Zoolander