Be warned, we will delve into spoilers in this piece.
Victor Frankenstein was a failure at the box office and critically lambasted. I would say that unfairly so to an extent. It’s an entertaining movie with great production design and solid cinematography. James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are great together. Yet, it does fall short. It seems to promise a great twist on the Frankenstein mythos, but we hardly get any of that. It’s a short breeze of a movie. It comes and goes, and we are left thinking: That’s it?
Writer Max Landis had touted this script as the one he was the most proud of. It has been available on the internet for some time, so how is it that the film ruined a good script? Both the film and the script are quite similar in a lot of aspects. But while the movie starts with Victor meeting Igor at a circus, the script gives us a bit more time to get to know him. We see more of his mistreatment at the circus and get a bigger idea of his relationship between him and Lorelei. She gives him books and looks after him , in contrast to the rest of the troupe who only bully him.
After that, things stay quite the same. But Landis writes in a tone of grandeur and exaggeration that the movie doesn’t capture. It would’ve helped to have included some of the funnier bits of dialogue, such as one funny bit where Victor and Igor drunkenly imagine the sort of creatures they could create together. In both the film and the script, a subplot follows inspector Turpin on the trail of Victor’s corpse robberies. In the film, Turpin comes across as near-superhuman with his ability to connect the dots on instinct. The script allows more moments with him where he collects hard evidence and interviews witnesses. It makes much more logical and dramatic sense.
There is also the question of the ending which is very different from the final film. In the script, Victor builds the creature and it goes berserk. In the process, the creature kills Turpin and Victor resurrects him. This causes Turpin to do a complete turn-around; he no longer views Victor as a heretic, instead, he sees his value and lets him go. This is a far more interesting ending than the one in the final film where Turpin just dies, followed by a fight with the monster. In addition, the final fight in the script allows for moments that bring it closer to the imagery of Frankenstein we’ve come to know.
But, both the film and the script suffer from a character development problem. Landis has gone on to say that his biggest inspiration for the script was the work of Aaron Sorkin. Two friends working on a revolutionary invention? Sounds a bit Social Network. But what Landis seems to have forgotten was that in that film, we saw a friendship fall apart on the basis of ambition and greed. The problem with Victor and Igor’s friendship in the script and the film is a lack of stakes. They have their differences, but they are quickly resolved. Their low-point comes in the transition into the third act where they come apart. But before that, seeing them get closer to each other doesn’t provide enough drama. How do they truly differ from each other? How do they complement each other? We get an idea about Igor’s plight if he loses Victor. But what kind of danger Victor is in without Igor, especially since Igor hardly keeps him in check? This needed to be a more conflicted friendship to build into something more dramatic.
Victor Frankenstein probably didn’t deserve the mauling it got, the movie has a lot of good qualities and it’s enjoyable, it almost works. But if it had followed the script it would’ve stood out more. The script however, at least in the drafts that are available to read, needed a bit more punch. As it is, maybe time will be kinder to Victor Frankenstein but it’s doubtful that we will see the film envisioned in the script. If you want to make up your own mind about the movie, you can get it here.