Victor Frankenstein was released November 11th, 2015. It was written by Max Landis and directed by Paul McGuigan.
The film opens with a narration by Igor, telling his story as a friendless hunchback who belongs to the circus. During a performance, Lorelei, the acrobat Igor is infatuated with, falls from a broken trapeze. Igor, who is a medical autodidact, and Victor Frankenstein, who is an audience member, both rush to save her. Impressed with Igor’s medical knowledge, Victor rescues him from the circus and takes him to live with him in London. With Igor as his assistant, Victor attempts to create life. The narrative is told from Igor's point of view.
Major Themes Edit
Education and Isolation Edit
For Igor, education is what helps him mentally escape the misery of the circus, and leads him to being rescued by Victor. Like the Creature in the novel, who educates himself in order to feel closer to humanity, Igor, also an outcast due to his appearance, studies anatomy to understand “everything about this internal universe that makes us who we are.” This inward focus on understanding is different from Victor’s desire to attain knowledge that will set him apart from his fellow scientists and put him in a higher sphere of achievement. The theme of education in Frankenstein is associated with isolation. Victor, Captain Walton, and the Creature, all self-taught, pursued their intellectual interests without direction, and they experience the loneliness of isolation. Victor seeks solitude and shuts out the many people who love him. He has a chance to be among an intellectual community, but instead he sequesters himself with his own interests. In the film, Victor sees a chance for like-minded companionship in Igor.
Pride and Ambition Edit
Victor’s pride and ambition are always on display in this film. His idea of how women could pursue an education if procreation became a product of the lab is a progressive statement, implying women could achieve more with the advancement of science. But Victor’s arrogance and apparent disinterest in sex make it more likely that he wants to bypass the woman’s role in the creation of life. The notion of creating life from death is so preposterous that Frankenstein is necessarily a man with unchecked ambition and bulletproof pride. In the film, Victor sneers, scoffs and gets carried away by his own genius. While he did rescue Igor from the circus, he is always quick to remind him that he created him, and without him, he would be nothing. Victor repeatedly expresses a need to have his abilities acknowledged, and a desire for his name to become synonymous with advancement in science. The idea of Frankenstein playing God, and his disregard of people's concerns, is reoccurring. After Finnegan offers his wealth to further their experiments, Victor states they will make a man next. Igor wants him to slow down and think, but Victor is already drunk on the idea. When Turpin confronts him during the final creation scene, he says he must stop doing the work of Satan. Victor replies “There is no Satan, no God. Only humanity. Only me!”
Science and Religion Edit
It is revealed that Victor feels guilty about the death of his brother Henry and wishes to restore the balance by giving life to a dead man. He seems entirely uninterested in participating in the already established method of creating life, wishing instead to develop his own version using recycled parts. Victor, in his desire to create life from death, is in discordance with the Christian idea of life after death. When Turpin and Victor meet, their conversation escalates to a heated argument of science versus religion, with Victor referring to Turpin’s belief system as primitive and void of logical thought. Victor sees Turpin’s crucifix and states that his home is one of “rational, free-thinking men” and that “God has no authority here.” Turpin insists that “life is a sacred creation”, causing Victor to become even more condescending, responding that life is “merely the outcome of applied chemistry.”
Significance of Victor Frankenstein EditThe production values for this film are clearly higher than the majority of Frankenstein films, rivaled only by Kenneth Branagh's 1994 production, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are both high-profile actors, made famous by their roles as Dr. Charles Xavier, and Harry Potter, respectively. Fans of the popular BBC series Sherlock will recognize Andrew Scott, famous for his role as Moriarty, in a role reversal as the moralistic Inspector Turpin. The special effects are consistent quality by today’s standards, and do not distract from the story. The director, Paul McGuigan, directed four episodes of Sherlock, which may explain the addition of a detective element, and the focus on the friendship between Victor and Igor.
Like most film adaptations, Victor Frankenstein takes certain parts of Mary Shelley’s novel, and creates its own narrative using pieces from other film adaptations. The character of Igor the hunchback, who evolved from several early adaptations, became cemented in the Frankenstein mythos with Igor in Young Frankenstein (1974). The creators of Victor Frankenstein know their movie history, and include several references to Young Frankenstein and Jame's Whales Frankenstein (1931), as well as many others. Fans of Young Frankenstein will notice that Inspector Turpin ends up with an eye-patch and a prosthetic hand, exactly like Inspector Kemp. There is also the moment Lorelei is corrected on her pronunciation of Frahnk-en-shteen, an ongoing joke in the Mel Brook’s classic. At times the film tries too hard to make Frankenstein references, breaking out of the film’s characterizations, so Igor can say “yes, master”, or when Victor says the creature will have a flat head because ‘he likes it.’ Other references, such as Victor’s deceased older brother named Henry, and the scene with the moving eyeballs reminiscent of the Hammer Studios Series, are more obscure references that do not detract from the new story, and can be enjoyed by Frankenstein film aficionados.
Victor Frankenstein portrays an interesting element of homosexual subtext that, if pushed farther, may have given the story a fresh feeling, instead of being a tired rehash of familiar themes. After Victor’s first creature runs amok at the school, the character of Finnegan, an extremely rich dandy, is interested in Victor’s experiment and offers to fund his next attempt. At one point he speaks with a seductive tone into Victor’s ear, an overtly erotic action that is unusual for men only interested in science. Shortly after that, Victor declares he can make a man, “an intelligent, civilized man” with such passion that his voice takes on a husky whisper. The film flirts with homosexuality, from the foppish Finnegan’s unclear motives, as well as Victor’s apparent possessive feelings towards Igor, and it even addresses homosexuality directly with Lorelei posing as the girlfriend for a wealthy homosexual man.
Lorelei, the only female character in the film, plays the role of Igor’s love interest, and is not given much to do outside of that convention. However, the character has a visual impact that represents her own ability to create life, in contrast to Victor’s obsession. The color scheme of the movie is mostly muted colors in a sea of grey, but when she and Igor are making love, her vibrant crimson dress billows out, giving the appearance of a beating heart. The same image is used when she finds him at the Scottish Castle, after they have killed the Creature. While Victor freed Igor from the circus, it was Lorelei who provided him with the love and warmth he needed.
Victor Frankenstein was widely panned by critics. There are elements of action and horror, with the attempts at comedy muddled by melodrama. James McAvoy’s scenery chewing is the only source of energy, and his portrayal of Victor deserves a better script. The ending hinted at sequel material, with Victor saying he has some new ideas on improving the creature, but with the film’s dismal ratings, and disappointing box office numbers, any plans to continue the franchise are lying dead on the table.
Resources Used Edit
Victor Frankenstein (2015) 20th Century Fox