Director: Paul McGuigan
Cast: Harry Potter, Professor X, James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Paul O’Connel (as the Monster).
Release: November 2015
Review Author: Adam
Rating: 2.5/5 Cans of Guinness
I must first start this review with an apology to the fans. I have not been around much, at all. I’ve been swanning off with my new job attempting to master a new industry and I’ve let my hobby, passion and more importantly responsibilities slip. I haven’t been writing drunken rants about films for all of you wonderful people as much as I want to or as much as I like to. That’s going to change. I’m back, with plans, ambition and things that I really hope you will all enjoy. Watch this space for 2016. There’s a hint there that I hope you’ll all get.
Enough sappy stuff, onto the monster film.
It’s one of the oldest stories there is. One of the most basic premises of cinema; man creates, man destroys. The eternal zero sum game that exists between the forces of life & death, good & evil, right & wrong and science versus religion. Mary Shelly’s classic monster masterpiece ‘Frankenstein’ was dragged back to life in a lovely act of symbolism by 20th Century Fox this Christmas. I’m still trying to digest how I feel about it, so, I’m going to just jump right into this and give you all my thoughts while they’re still fresh in my very much alive head.
The film stays true to the novel only in the most basic of premise; there was a man obsessed with creating life. Other than that it takes its own tale and I’m perfectly fine with that. There is obviously great scope to tell the tale of the man behind the brilliance of ‘playing god’. Incase you didn’t get it from the trailers, the posters or the released clips the film is about the monster behind the monster and it’s a basic tale of the burdened and hurt genius, out to change the world with his brilliance with absolutely no regard for the consequences of his work. Just incase that isn’t clear before the movie starts the director does a damn fine job of hitting you over the head with it in the form of a dull voice over fast forward scene that thankfully doesn’t come up again. I really hate voice overs, they’re lazy.
All of the main characters play a great symbolic role in the form of various opinions about his work. You have the loyal assistant who represents the logical side of this creation, he can be swayed by the most persuasive argument. What bothers me about Radcliffe’s character is that the sub-plot to him is how he finds his own life. Except he never really does. He is simply re-rescued from person to person and never lives up to his destiny of ‘becoming his own man’.
You have the religious police officer, out to get the good doctor. Andrew Scott does a great job here of playing a double role in this symbolism of ‘rules’, he is the rule of law, who disapproves, and the rule of religion, who seriously has issues with this man stitching together arms and legs and almost definitely a bigger cock for his creation. (It’s never said when the body list inventory is being rattled off, but let’s be honest, at some stage a discussion about this thing’s dick would have had to come up, stop hiding the scenes that I know happened from me!).
Then you have the ‘society’ who is simply scared of the monster, and doesn’t understand it. This is the girl who, when we meet her, is badly swinging from the ceiling and then attempts to become a moral compass for the assistant. As Tony rightly pointed out ‘Love, you were swinging from the ceiling a half hour ago, don’t tell me how to build my monsters’. So all of these various opinions clash at various stages and logic always gets caught in the middle, being cursed with the view from all angles. Speaking of angles, some serious credit is due to the DOP of this piece because the layout of the scenes does a fabulous job of portraying the struggles and power of the characters in various scenes. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting work of that caliber from an end of year monster flick.
You may remember a previous post of mine, where I did what is becoming a cliche of this blog and bitched about a film’s trailer. The two trailers for this film painted two very different pictures of the films tone. I can now tell you that the tone is one of a dark and sentimental horror flick.
It is cast very well, and has a lot of surprises in it, that’s right Mark Gatiss, don’t think I didn’t see you hiding there with your big green goggles in the final act. What with a decent chunk of the cast of Sherlock being in this film I think it’s only fitting that it be a visual tear away from the Robert Downy JR remake of Sherlock too. They all seem to have met at this lovely junction here tonight on the silver screen. Or small screen, wherever you watch the film… support the industry though. Don’t be a dick, go to the cinema, I saw this in a near empty screen and it reminded me why I ultimately decided to leave the industry.
There are some issues with the pacing, it spends just a little bit too long establishing some things that are already painfully obvious and then not enough on the monster going berserk on everyone’s respective asses.
One lazy thing the film is guilty of is following the ‘and then‘ model of story telling. The ‘and then‘ is a basic template of linear events that directly flow from one another in a very basic and predictable way. It takes away from pacing and just leaves a series of ‘this happens, then this, then this, then this, then they hug and it’s over’. Whereby the lesser seen but much more engaging ‘This, but this, therefore‘ model is so much more engaging to an audience. This model is where you have an event happen, that means something else happens as a result and that creates a situation out of the two- In Bruges would be a great example of this series of events coming together as a result of each other, or even Pulp Fiction if you have the time!
My final note on this film is the chemistry and performance of Radcliffe and McAvoy. I’ve always been a fan of James McAvoy but I’m seeing a trend in his work of playing ‘the brilliant man’. In his last few big films he’s played the ‘brilliant man’ above the rest, with a vision and knowledge that allows him to almost be above everyone around. In X-Men he is obviously the top-dog mutant, in Filth he plays the damaged but brilliant-in-his-own-way detective. And in this he is no different, an above the rest superhuman who is on his own level. I really want to see him take on a more human role and really test a dimension of acting that I’ve not seen before with him.
Daniel Radcliffe won me over after listening to his excellent guest slot on the Nerdist Podcast with Chris Hardwick (I would strongly recommend this for anyone like me who has a long and boring commute in the mornings). He plays his role well, any flaws I have with the character are not his fault as an actor. He does an amazing job as a supporting role and never steals too much of the lime-light for himself. He really complements McAvoy’s performance.
I won’t spoil details of the monster’s reveal or the subtle easter eggs from the original book, or the production error I spotted in the form of a tattoo on one of the cast members during a certain scene (Tweet us if you spot it!). I will just strongly recommend that you go see it. It’s not the best film of the year but it’s entertaining, exciting and just dark enough to remind you that christmas doesn’t have to be all tinsel and turkey films.