Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is getting trotted out for another big screen outing this Thanksgiving. Tired of the endless patchy adaptations? Fear not, Victor Frankenstein knows better than to approach Shelley’s tome with fierce loyalty that crippled the sub-par adaptations which precede it. James McAvoy stars as the titular scientist, Daniel Radcliffe his assistant Igor, and together their previously-untapped jocularity takes center stage.
A dark, moody period retread this is not. Screenwriter Max Landis and director Paul McGuigan, whose opinion on the novel is that it’s “dull as dishwater”, have in a fashion, Frankenstein-ed the story into a new, almost unrecognizable shape: it’s a gothic bromance! “It’s a reimagination,” McGuigan says, “a rebirth if you’d like, the idea of starting both characters from what you think they are, to who they become.”
“Told from Igor’s perspective,” reads the official synopsis, “we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Victor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man—and the legend—we know today.” With that eye to retelling the age-old tale, a fresh angle on camaraderie opens up. If you caught sight of the film’s panel at Comic-Con this year, the chemistry between the two leads would suggest that onscreen they’ll positively sizzle:
Established characteristics of the pair will, of course, still be present — if in a slightly morphed presentation. McAvoy confirms that Victor is still in possession of a swollen ego while Radcliffe asserts Igor’s loyalty to his mentor.
Elsewhere on the casting sheet, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown-Findlay and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott pad out the main supporting cast, as a trapeze artist and law enforcer, who become embroiled in Frankenstein’s cutting-edge schemes during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. His plans to create life are still viewed by the world as bonkers: grave-robbing, and corpse-nabbing to stitch together a person. According to producer John Davis, that iconic moment won’t be another stale rehash — it’s tinged with “a real modernity” due to Landis’ script.
The screenwriter “cherry-picked” from earlier movies to the actual novel to any other Frankenstein-related media he could get his mitts on. “Max is the original mad genius on this project,” Davis tells Coming Soon, “It was his vision from the beginning, what he pitched to us, and what he eventually put on paper. I think what Max was trying to originally accomplish was a Frankenstein unlike any you’ve seen before, which is one that’s rooted in character relationships between a – maybe not mad, but misunderstood, scientist – who’s got a strong pull and vision, and the origin of his assistant, and how that relationship started.” The resultant movie is part-pastiche and part-parody, or what Radcliffe calls “a rip-roaring fun adventure”.
All sounds swell so far; bromaraderie mixed with dubious science and a dash of action. So what about the Monster? Apparently the patchwork man’s creation isn’t the focus of the pic. This is about the creation of Victor Frankenstein, the scientist. If fans take umbrage with this, then McGuigan’s got a spot-on comeback: “My catchphrase is always ‘if you love the book you’ll hate the movie.’”
Victor Frankenstein opens on November 25.