“You know this story” is the first and one of the last lines uttered in this familiar and famed morality tale. While that may be the case, you’ve never seen the tale told quite like this.
Critics have panned this adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous story of life and death, as well as the people caught in between, but you won’t find that kind of animosity here. To be honest, I liked the film. The writing was a little shaky, I’ll give you that, but at its heart it is a beautifully shot rendition of a timeless classic.
The story takes place in eighteenth century London, where a nameless hunchback, the narrator of the story, known as Felix the clown resides in Barnaby’s circus. He is beaten and looked upon as being incredibly stupid, but he has an affinity for medicine and anatomy. One day, Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), the resident aerialist, falls from the trapeze and the clown, with the aide of Frankenstein, saves her life. Frankenstein liberates the hunchback, but in the ensuing chase a carney is killed. From there, the descent into madness is played at breakneck speed until the chilling climax.
James McAvoy plays the titular Frankenstein, while Daniel Radcliffe plays the (entirely made up) hunchback, Igor Strausman. Yes, the film goes there with the nonexistent assistant to Frankenstein’s experiments and madness, but Radcliffe and McAvoy play off of each other with astounding realism and chemistry that is oft times lacking in films such as these but here. Most of the weakness in acting here comes from the poor script, but every actor gives it their all. The most notable being Andrew Scott.
Scott plays Detective Inspector Turpin, a deeply religious man who has been tracking Frankenstein for weeks. Scott is fiercely type cast in this. His droll delivery and emotionless gaze contains shades of the famed James Moriarty, the role from Sherlock that put him on the map. Perhaps this persona is there because Paul McGuigan, the director of the film, has directed episodes of Sherlock. That would also explain the cameos of Louise Brealey (Molly Hooper in Sherlock) and Mark Gatiss (Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock). Either way you cut it Turpin is a chilling foil to Frankenstein, and Scott holds his own against McAvoy and Radcliffe.
But enough about the acting because where that and the writing fails, there is no mistaking that this is a beautiful film. McGuigan is on top form. London is murky and clouded with steam, but the colours here are rich and defined. Early scene transitions are done seamlessly through various scientific experiments and the action plays smoothly through the wonderfully coloured circus. There is no doubt about the care McGuigan used to film this movie. Every scene is crafted to the lunacy that descends upon our characters, and while you may know the story of Frankenstein and his monster, you definitely don’t know it quite like this.
In all, despite the writing failings and the adorably type cast Andrew Scott, this film is a fun adaptation of an old classic. The carefully crafted scene transitions and colours make up for the inaccuracies, but I’m willing to overlook it on the grounds of gorgeous directing.
3 ½ stars out of 5.
Shelby started writing at the age of 13 and has been hooked ever since. She's currently going to school at ATU for Creative Writing and English with a minor in Film Studies. She hopes to one day be a professor of film, a film critic, and a screenwriter. (Can you tell she likes the movies?)
She hopes to walk the red carpet one day. She contributes a long list of friends, co-workers, professors, and writers as the inspiration for her dreams and goals.
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