[This article contains MILD SPOILERS for Victor Frankenstein.]
Universal has set its rebooted Shared Monster Movie Universe in motion, having now released Dracula Untold and placed Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy on course to arrive by 2016. However, before the studio revisits Frankenstein, 20th Century Fox will release Victor Frankenstein. The latter is a spin on the titular Mary Shelley character and his world that was scripted by Max Landis (Chronicle) and stars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe as, respectively, Victor Von Frankenstein and Igor.
Victor Frankenstein, as helmed by Paul McGuigan (director of such Sherlock episodes as “A Study in Pink” and “The Hounds of Baskerville”), is told from the perspective of Igor, whose “dark origins” and “redemptive friendship” with future Dr. Frankenstein are the backbone of the film, according to the official synopsis.
Radcliffe confirmed as much during a recent interview with Collider (to promote his upcoming horror novel adaptation Horns), where he described his Frankenstein project as being an unconventional take on both the world and characters that were originally envisioned by Shelley – joking (?) that “The quote I got in trouble with with the producers was saying, ‘If you like the book, you’ll hate the movie.””
He also clarified that Landis’ Victor Frankenstein script isn’t so heavy on the sci-fi/horror genre elements that are common to adaptations of the Frankenstein source material. As Radcliffe put it:
“I think our Frankenstein is a really kind of rip-roaring, fun adventure movie version of Frankenstein. I would really struggle to class it as horror. I think there are horror elements to it and nods to previous versions of Frankenstein, but it’s much more a film about – the thing that I hope will make it stand out is the relationship between James’ character and I. Victor and Igor are two people who come to need each other very much… Igor feels forever that he has this sort of debt of loyalty and the film then becomes about how much can that debt be pushed? How much can that loyalty be pushed before – at what point do you have to step out from the shadows of the person that created you and go, ‘I am my own person?’ Or, do you forever defer to the person that is responsible for your life? So it’s sort of, it’s a film about relationships set against the backdrop of creating monsters.”
Frankenstein is a story that’s been told, retold, re-imagined, and/or parodied so often that most adaptations of the source material tend to go off in a different direction, be it creating an Underworld-esque supernatural mythology that’s spun from the original Frankenstein tale (a la I, Frankenstein) or setting the drama in modern times, as is true for the Frankenstein TV show pilot that Fox is currently developing. Placing the act of monster creation in the background of a character drama is another way of re-envisioning the story, and Radcliffe emphasized that’s very much what Landis has done.
“One of the biggest differences between us and other Frankensteins will be that, generally speaking, the main relationship is between Frankenstein and the monster and the monster is created in the middle of the movie, and in our version it’s created right at the end and the journey up to that is really about how we come to that eventual idea. I’ve heard other people call it kind of an origin story for Frankenstein, but it’s an origin story for a Frankenstein you have never met before, if that helps…”
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful‘s Frankenstein story thread is also (arguably) a character drama first, sci-fi/horror story second, though that deals with Dr. Frankenstein and his creature, not Victor and Igor. Which is to say, there’s still room for Victor Frankenstein to offer a new and relatively unique Frankenstein storytelling experience for filmgoers, especially if it’s more of a “rip-roaring, fun adventure,” as Radcliffe put it.
Victor Frankenstein opens in U.S. theaters on October 2nd, 2015.