CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
By chance, the last film I watched before heading out to my local to see this latest revision of the Frankenstein story was Hammer's The Curse Of Frankenstein, a full 58 years old and the first Frankenstein in colour. Originally an X and now downgraded to a mere 12, perhaps because it's just not that horrific any more, it's something of a contrast to Paul McGuigan's full-on monster romp which throws gloop and special effects and large-scale set pieces at the screen (and still emerges with a 12A). Both films largely dispense with the detail of the original text, keeping a few names and the basic idea at its core, and making the rest up out of thin air. It also retains the (unspecified) period setting, unlike the new modern-day (but closer to the novel) Bernard Rose take on the tale.
This one is mainly told from the perspective of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), the initially hunchbacked assistant who starts out as a much-abused circus clown, and whose medical knowledge catches the attention of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) when a trapeze artist plummets to the ground. Rescuing the pathetic creature and recruiting him as his assistant, Victor pulls him into a world of horrifying experiments with animal parts and patchwork monsters, in the pursuit of actually building a living, thinking Man....
There is the obvious notion that Victor's greatest creation is neither the ferocious chimpanzee beast that runs amok at the Royal Society or the unreasoning giant at the heart of the film's overblown climax, but is actually Igor himself as, Pygmalion-like, he transforms the deformed circus stooge into a civilised gentleman capable of independent thought. Frankly, that's about as subtle as Victor Frankenstein gets: some of the performances are distinctly ripe (James McAvoy in particular, Andrew Scott's police inspector barely suppressing his religious fervour, and the great Charles Dance for one scene), the final reanimation sequence takes place on a huge scale as though it's the climax of a Marvel Avengers movie, and there's a Young Frankenstein gag which might have seemed like a good idea at the time.
Sophisticated it might not be - it's got the feel of the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes (along with a cameo from Mark Gatiss from TV's Sherlock) and as far as recent reboots of the classic Universal monsters go it's closer to the rampant silliness of I, Frankenstein than, say, 2010's The Wolfman - but it looks good, is never dull and more than kept me entertained on a damp Sunday night, and I can't quite fathom the terrible notices it's had from some of the mainstream press. It's really not that bad! This is not supposed to be taken seriously: it's a daft popcorn romp and on that level it's hard to get that angry about. Connoisseurs of Mary Shelley should probably wait for Bernard Rose's version, though.