Talk about putting the kibosh on anticipation... Any film that opens with the narrator gravely telling viewers that they "know this story" isn't exactly doing itself any favours in terms of mystique. Now granted, there's an attempt to recover from that gun-to-foot moment with a teaser about there being more to the tale - but the fact is not much. A couple of years ago, the Benicio del Toro and Emily Blunt-starring The Wolfman was unmercifully savaged by critics upon its release, but it was far more entertaining than what's on offer here.
McAvoy plays the titular scientist who rescues a hunchback clown (Radcliffe) from the circus when he discovers that behind the motley lies a genius. Back at his epic pad, Frankenstein realises that the clown's affliction is really only a particularly nasty boil that requires lancing and abscess, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder. Soon the new houseguest has shed his ugly duckling skin, spruced himself up and agreed to become his saviour's new assistant by assuming the identity of late former roommate Igor Strausman. There is much work to be done down in the basement - and a former big top colleague (Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown Findlay) to woo.
In the most genuine, luvvie-free way, Radcliffe and McAvoy really have wanted to work together for a long time but throughout Victor Frankenstein you wonder why they didn't hold out a little longer for something more deserving of their talents. Here the duo's undoubted screen chemistry is wasted in a film that's bitty, doesn't offer enough opportunities for emotional investment in the characters and is unable to really let rip when the experiments come back to life because of the 12A certificate. Why couldn't they have remade Hammer's The Devil Rides Out instead?!
Eleven-year-olds may contend this is the greatest movie they've seen since the last one, but anyone who, ahem, knows this story can point to far better screen outings for blockhead and co - the bolted-on (sorry) romance does little for plot and pace and the monster's big reveal at the climax is a fair old letdown. Full credit, then, to Andrew Scott as the grieving and God-fearing detective and the production designers for at least offering some light amidst the gloom.
Look for your esprit de corpse elsewhere.