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quinta-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2015
Victor Frankenstein review: 'staggeringly dunderheaded'
Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy's gothic bromance interpretation of Mary Shelley is dead on arrival
With a thunderous flourish, Mary Shelley subtitled her 1818 gothic masterwork Frankenstein ‘The Modern Prometheus’. Almost 200 years later, here is a reimagining of Shelley’s tale that’s barely The Modern Carry On Screaming.
Just when critics thought they had their worst-of-the-year lists locked down for posterity, along comes Victor Frankenstein. This staggeringly dunderheaded pop-goth romp centres on the relationship between its titular mad scientist (James McAvoy) and his hunchbacked manservant Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), which the film positions as a kind of period action bromance. Imagine the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films with 100 percent less panache and 500 percent more rain and yelling, and you’re somewhere in the right vicinity.
Igor starts the film as a circus clown whose act entails being violently assaulted by all the other clowns: apparently, in 19th century London, this qualifies as choice family entertainment. He toughs it out only because he’s in love with the trapeze artist Lorelei (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay), but during one night’s show, to put the tin lid on a generally rotten evening, she falls off the swing and breaks her neck.
A doctor appears from nowhere – Victor Frankenstein! – but it’s Igor, who is happily also a talented physician, that saves the young woman’s life.
Duly impressed, Victor persuades Igor to escape, and back at his lodgings, Igor’s new-found friend drains the cyst that’s caused his lifelong deformity (you’d imagine it might have occurred to Igor to do it himself at some point, what with him being such a medical genius, but maybe not).
Their partnership cemented, Victor brings Igor in on his top secret project, which involves – of course – reanimating the tissue of a dead animal with electricity and a sinister-looking utensil called the Lazarus Fork (third drawer down, next to the Bartimaeus Whisk).
You can see where this is going, although it’s not entirely clear the film can. Before the duo’s first creation is unveiled, there’s lots of bumbling around through London’s grimy nightlife to be done – for the backdrop, think Wikipedia Victoriana – along with montages of McAvoy downing whisky and ranting while Radcliffe thoughtfully clips electrodes to a lump of gammon.
Post-Harry Potter, it’s understandable that Radcliffe would be on the lookout for unexpected roles like this. But his last few films have felt less like playing against type than against career, and Victor Frankenstein doesn’t stall the unfortunate trend. McAvoy, meanwhile – well, goodness only knows what he’s aiming at here, but his Frankenstein comes across something like Derren Brown on Imodium, hopping around with a glint in his eye that suggests a man who has already mentally walked himself through the route to the nearest bathroom.
On their tail is Scotland Yard’s Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott), who doesn’t do much apart from walk through the location of Victor and Igor’s latest hijinks, then put his fingers in some slime and frown – until a late showdown with the twosome, at which point he blurts out his life story.
Scott is just one of an entire job lot of bit-players from the BBC’s Sherlock, which also includes Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey and Alistair Petrie, who seem to have been dragged and dropped into the background en masse.
That just about makes sense in light of director Paul McGuigan’s own work on that series, but it's still distracting – although a good deal less so than the vintage anatomical sketches that pop up, x-ray vision style, over various characters and creatures as they’re sized up by Victor and Igor.
And given the piles of spluttering apparatus in Victor’s digs, it’s ironic the film is so low on chemistry: the abominable script, by Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra) blunders at random between leaden Hollywood cliché-ese and florid Russell Brand-style methinksery without landing on a single memorable line or interaction.
It’s unreasonable to expect any Frankenstein film to live up to James Whale’s immortal 1931 version, in which Boris Karloff struck that scalp-prickling balance between horror and heartbreak against which all future monstrous performances would be measured.
But when Victor Frankenstein’s best moment turns out to be a smirking re-do of the "Fronkensteen" gag from Mel Brooks’ 1974 spoof version, McAvoy’s gargled shouts of “It’s alive!” ring hollower than ever.