James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe both turn in top-notch performances, but they aren’t enough to make this film worth watching. McAvoy’s outsized talents are downright wasted with this clunky material, and that’s enough to make me mad. To hold a grudge, even. I’m an epic grudge-holder. But first, let me say this: I find myself once again calling out Daniel Radcliffe for an outstanding performance.
I never watched Harry Potter, but out of the goodness of my heart, I don’t hold it against him. He did a very difficult thing: he grew up in front of us, and he did it in the most type-castiest of roles. And yet he’s managed to turn himself into a notable and note-worthy grown-up actor who consistently makes interesting choices. In Victor Frankenstein, he takes on the role of Igor, usually a one-note sidekick, and gives him a fresh and humane spin. Igor becomes the voice of reason, and of humanity as Frankenstein slowly loses his in the pursuit of creating life where it didn’t belong.
You all know the story of Frankenstein and his monster. It’s grosser than ever in this movie, but it’s not exactly new. It’s trying to be steampunky and superheroic with its cool quirk and over the top action sequences, plus some horror notes just to thicken the sauce. You can get a whiff of all these ingredients, which is what makes it all the more frustrating when the recipe fails to cook up anything palatable.
With every jolt of electricity they send through the monster’s dead body parts, you kind of wish some of the sparks would light up the movie. It’s got a beating heart but not much of a brain. McAvoy’s mad scientist and Radcliffe’s sympathetic servant deserve a better medium than this, but you get the sense that the writer and director were ambitious beyond their means. It never quite pulls together. This is one story that was better off not being reanimated.