So once again we have survived.

Victor Frankenstein

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN is maybe the only retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story I’ve seen where the monster is not very important. Played by Spencer Wilding (Darth Vader from ROGUE ONE), he’s just the mindless special effect that they fight at the climax. So it’s kind of more about Dr. Frankenstein (James Mcavoy, WANTED), except the main character is Igor (Daniel Radcliffe, THE TAILOR OF PANAMA), who is not so much his assistant as his brilliant partner who has more sense than he does and backs out right before they make that monster.

It starts with Igor as a nameless, hunchbacked, clown-makeup-wearing freak in a circus. For some reason he doubles as the medic, and because he also passionately reads medical books in his spare time, he is a brilliant, ahead of his time medical genius. No big deal. This comes in handy when the acrobat he has a crush on (Jessica Brown Findlay, WINTER’S TALE) falls. Frankenstein, being in the audience, comes to help, but is sure there’s nothing they can do for her – until the hunchback proves otherwise.

Impressed, Frankenstein comes back and frees the hunchback from his cage, and there is a hip Guy Ritchie style slow-mo wacky action scene where Victor does a little bit of parkour and a knifethrower accidentally kills another circus guy in the mayhem. Victor gives Igor his name, hides him out in his apartment and gets him to help with his experiments. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is on their trail for supposedly murdering the knife victim.

Victor is in some ways generous, but also crazy. He grabs Igor and forcibly drains his hunchback (which he says is really an abscess) and puts a brace on him to make him stand upright. Cleaned up he is just a normal guy for the rest of the movie, doesn’t even struggle much to figure out how to fit into a society he never even saw before. This is typical of screenwriter Max Landis (AMERICAN ULTRA) – “Did you know that the hunchbacked assistant Igor is not even a character from the book Frankenstein? It’s true, he’s not. Now, what if I were to tell you that in my version of Frankenstein, Igor is the main character? Only in my version of Igor his name isn’t Igor, and he’s not a hunchback, and he’s not Frankenstein’s assistant! What then, huh? What would you do? AM I BLOWING YOUR MIND I AM HOLLYWOOD’S MOST CHALLENGING NEW VISIONARY PLEASE LOOK AT ME I NEED YOU TO SEE ME I DEVOUR YOUR ATTENTION POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE IT IS MY FUEL.” (direct quote)

Victor tells Igor he’ll give him assignments that will be part of a larger project, but he’s not allowed to ask what the larger project is. And then he spends his days doing advanced mad science stuff to various body parts that when put together would make up 1 (one) man. But they are all separate so who could possibly imagine what sort of larger project they might be for? It’s very mysterious.

The aspect that works best is the bad friendship between Victor and Igor. Victor shows him respect that no one else has, but any time Igor disagrees with him suddenly he’ll belittle him, go from calling him a full partner to bossing him around like a servant. Igor is more sane and ethical, but there’s a turning point where Victor’s dad (Charles Dance, LAST ACTION HERO, PRIDE + PREJUDICE + ZOMBIES) shows up and chews him out for being a fuckup. Suddenly your realize that the great Dr. Frankenstein is just a college student whose dad thinks he’s wasting his tuition money. Igor claims not to have heard what dad said, but now agrees to help with the Modern Prometheus experiment. (He comes up with the idea of giving it two hearts and four lungs inside his giant body). Later, after a falling out, he still rushes to the castle to help Victor, because “he’s my friend.”

Kinda sweet. My trouble is I have a hard time believing a guy who until very recently lived in a cage with a giant sac of pus on his back would or should feel sorry for a guy just because his dad thinks he should be more like his brother. (There does turn out to be more to it, but that wasn’t needed to hook Igor.)

Like I, FRANKENSTEIN it plays with the idea of people remembering the monster as “Frankenstein,” not the doctor. Or at least it raises the possibility that people will never remember him. It’s not a bad idea, but this is all not-bad-ideas and not-good doing anything interesting with them. There is a piece of a clever idea in that Victor’s emotional backstory involves being blamed for his brother freezing to death in the snow. I thought maybe this would pay off as new background to the ending of the book when he himself dies of hypothermia. But of course we never get that far, or really meet the monster. Landis, who once boasted of having written 75 screenplays (11 per year according to my math), doesn’t seem like he has time to go back and read over them again. At the climax when Igor had to climb a rocky mountain to the castle I thought ah, he’ll take off the backbrace and revert to his circus hunchback ways…

No, that was only the opening scene. That has no other relevance. But hey, circus acrobat Lorelei (jesus christ Max Landis you got that name from Gilmore Girls didn’t you?) is definitely gonna be cool at the climax, she’s spent most of the movie being a courtesan and beard to the gay villain (Freddie Fox, not the rapper, but some guy who was in THE THREE MUSKETEERS) but then she figuratively rolls up her sleeves because she’s gonna help Igor get past some cops so obviously she’s gonna do some acrobatics, right?

No, that was just the opening scene. That had no other relevance.

I mean, obviously no story needs to go where I expect it to go, but this just seems indefensibly lazy to me. A movie where an acrobat does cool acrobat shit is quite simply better than a movie where they say a character is an acrobat but then she just wears fancy dresses and is in love with the main dude. It almost seems like he writes these front to back and doesn’t remember what he started with.

I counted two in-jokes that it almost seems impossible somebody actually thought were worthy of writing down and printing out and acting out and filming and editing into the movie and releasing in a forum where other humans would see them:

1. They make a big deal about the big lecture hall in the medical school being called “Hall H.” Because that’s some comic-con thing.

2. Somebody pronounces it Fronk-in-steen and he says no it’s Frank-in-stine. Don’t you see because it’s the reverse of what he says in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN don’t you get it it’s a famous joke oh my god I love YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN what a fun reference I don’t know maybe a little too obscure maybe you gotta really know your shit like me that is kind of a deep cut there what a fun time for us serious movie buffs though

For all my complaints, this was most disappointing for not being all that crazy. Other than telling it through a point-of-view character and making the clear best character of the story (the monster) into a big muscular pile of nothing at all, it’s not that radical of a reinvention. Needs more parkour.

There is a brief part with a cool undead monkey though.

Director Paul McGuigan is the guy that did LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN and the pilot of Luke Cage.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 at 9:58 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Victor Frankenstein”

  1. I saw DRACULA UNTOLD in 3D so I figured maybe I should keep the bad decisions going and go see this one. I was somewhat intrigued by the ‘from the point of view of a side character’ angle even though that almost never works, remember MARY REILY? Of coarse you don’t. Then I learned it was written by Max Landis and wondered if I wanted to support the Kanye of screenwriting, then everyone said it was bad so I didn’t go see it and then forgot it existed. Until now.

    Glad I was able to add to the discussion by the way.

    Anyways, who is Landis going to blame if SHIN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON fails? I make it a thing to not follow him but I heard that he’s one of those Joss Whedon types that if one of his movies fails or is hated (for Landis that is all of them but patriarchy and nepotism doesn’t exist I’m told) then it’s the director, cinematographer, actors, editor, food caterers fault that they didn’t do his brilliant screenplay justice. Arguably I read he blamed us dumb audience members for not going to go see AMERICAN ULTRA because we are so brainwashed by the man we’ll only go see remakes and sequels and adaptations and not brilliant original works like he gives us. -Max Landis, writer of VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN and POWER RANGERS and director/writer of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and a SUPERMAN comic book and constant fan-fic-y script pitches for sequels/remakes on his Twitter account

  2. I keep giving Maximum Landis chances because, despite Vern being absolutely 100% correct about every criticism of his work and character, I haven’t hated any of his movies yet (I even liked MR. RIGHT! Nobody liked MR. RIGHT!) and I’m convinced that someday, just by pure 1000-monkeys-on-typewriters-eventually-producing-the-works-of-Shakespeare blind luck, he’ll produce something really great.

    That said, I would give anything to hear what John Landis really thinks of his son’s work. He’s so brutally honest that I can’t imagine it not being hilarious.

  3. I know that Vern explained to me what his problem with the younger Landis was (something about twitter), but it still comes off as a little… excessive?

    I dunno, I’ve still yet to see anything he’s penned or directed (does he direct too? He definitely pens), so perhaps it would be more understandable if I did. I’m just not really on board with the whole “this guy seems like a dick, so therefore his movies are lame” thing. Ever read an interview with William Friedkin? he comes off as unbelievably arrogant. Yet, he’s made a slew of movies one can not fuck with. I’m not saying young Landis is William Friedkin, just that you may want to compartmentalize a bit when approaching his shit.

  4. A sign of how the times of film distribution have changed, is that after this movie crashed, burned got pissed on at the US box office, it actually got a theatrical release over here a few months later! (Nobody watched it here either.) Back in the VHS days, this would have went straight to video. I can’t remember when it was the last time a theatrical major motion picture got the DTV treatment overseas. (Although I suspect it was the Zach Braff/Jason Bateman/Amanda Peet/Charles Grodin[!]/Mia Farrow [!] joint THE EX, around 10 years ago.)

  5. A lot of people would say that you can’t really blame an entire movie on the screenwriter, but in this case the screenplay is easy to find online. So, if Vern read the screenplay and thinks it was bad, then it makes sense for him to lay the whole thing on Max Landis.

  6. I love Max Landis. I think his geeky love is sincere and deep. His work also springs off the page and reads super well.

  7. It’s hard for me to get worked up about Landis because his movies are so forgettable! For example, I saw Vic Frankenstein in theaters and can only vaguely remember McAvoy being manic throughout.

    That being said, I’m looking forward to Landis & Ayer’s END OF WATCH WITH AN ORC

  8. If I recall, Victor Frankenstein was made with foreign presales, so the European distributors were already locked in before the whole thing collapsed.

  9. Landis obviously has talent. I think what he needs now is humility. He’s trying to do the fiercely iconoclastic wunderkind thing like Tarantino, but he’s no Tarantino. A lot of his shit just isn’t anywhere near as clever as he thinks it is, and nobody’s managed to bring that popping-off-the-page quality to the screen. I think that’s because clever is all it is most of the time. It has a surface sparkle but no core. It’s a snappy premise, not a satisfying story. If he could learn to attach some of that pop savvy and formal brio to some actual humanity, as if this is a story that matters to him and not just one of the 45 mind-blowing ideas he got on the can last night, he might really have something. Right now his work has a self-impressed, dilettantish quality that is holding it back. I’m able to recognize this quality in his work because I went through that stage myself. My own work was very showoffy and precocious—and had about as much to do with the human experience as a YouTube trailer parody. I had to be humbled by life to see how hollow my shit was. Eventually, a writer has to respect his material enough to bleed for it, and I don’t think Landis is mature enough to do that right now. When he is, I think he’ll do something special.

  10. The only thing I’ve watched that Li’l Landis was involved with was that American Ultra movie, which wasn’t terrible. It was just kind of bland. The screenplay felt like a rough draft that needed a few more go arounds. The fight in the grocery store was pretty cool, though.

  11. Mr. Majestyk – you beat me to the punch on calling him Maximum Landis.

    The only Maximum Landis movie I’ve seen so far is MR. RIGHT and it was shockingly not terrible, it had some funny moments, some decent action and Anna Kendrick looked very kawaii (I feel like that’s the word he would use) in those cat ears, for a millennial flavored Tarantino riff it was not bad, but nothing special.

    And as a person I don’t hate him, he’s an amusing, interesting guy, I liked him in the Red Letter Media videos he appeared and I’ve some funny stuff on his blog, including this one time hew as tripping balls at Universal Studios and hallucinated he was a Minion.

  12. Again, I admit that my first impression of Landis was from this podcast:

    http://nerdist.com/nerdist-podcast-max-landis/

    and because he’s one of the most unbearably obnoxious people I’ve ever heard interviewed and since that personality tends to come through in his movies as well, it is hard to separate the author from the art.

    But I honestly thought VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN might be the one to make me admit he did a good job on something. I thought it might at least be stupid fun. I think I gave it a fair assessment and accurately described how hollow and lazy its gimmicks are. And I mentioned that the monkey was cool.

    Also it was really mean what Landis did to Superman during the dawn of justice.

  13. I don’t hate Max Landis as a screenwriter. I’ve seen two ML joints (Chronicle and American Ultra) and enjoyed both. This is maybe the “meanest” Vern review I can remember (not that mean compared to the rest of the Internet, but a little more condescending than Vern normally is, even when he doesn’t like something). That said I have heard that this movie is fuckballs.

  14. The Undefeated Gaul

    April 6th, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Following your usual strategy of identifying actors by their least known or most action-oriented/B-movie type role, should it not have been “(Spencer Wilding, GREEN STREET 3: NEVER BACK DOWN)” instead of mentioning his big blockbuster STAR WARS role?

    Then again, that joke probably only works with proper big name actors, and this guy is usually in a monster suit anyway, not noticed by anyone. To me though, he will always be that crazy ass police captain slash football hooligan slash underground fighting tournament final boss villain.

  15. Like I’ve said, I’ve only seen one Landis movie, which I thought was mediocre with one good action scene, but, yeah, the dude doesn’t do himself any favors. His personality is pretty obnoxious. I couldn’t even make it through one of those Youtube videos of his because I found him so grating.

  16. All I know about Max is that Mr Right is pretty funny and my wife loves it.

  17. Totally agree with Mr. Majestyk. He’s in dire need of being sent to Earth. But I assume his ego, coupled with the thousands of fanboy supporters, will never allow that to happen (kind of like Kevin Smith). If he produces a stinker, I’m sure his excuse will be either be studio interference, or retarded audiences. It won’t ever be his glorious fault.

    That being said, I did enjoy Chronicle.

  18. jojo, I think the problem with Landis is that his smug assholeness does show in his works, not just his public appearances in podcasts and interviews. He does seem to think that everything he writes is mind-blowlingly original, like he does not realize that he’s the 10 millionth guy to make the same joke. If memory serves the Frankenstein movie even has a joke about how Frankenstein is the name of the scientist, not the monster. To me he’s like a guy sending you a page of Chuck Norris Facts in 2017, thinking he invented the joke or is at least the first person to share it. And the guy does have his unsufferable Youtube videos listed on his imdb page, so I do think it’s fair to judge him not only on stuff like CHRONICLE, but also on lame shit like his “Video documentary short” WRESTLING ISN’T WRESTLING, which makes such mind-blowlingly original observation as “Chyna looked like a dude”.

  19. I found ML particularly egregious as a Red Letter Media guest-star when they reviewed one of Neil Breen’s films. Fair enough, Breen may well have no business making professionally released films, and seems like he might be kind of a creep too, but seeing the poster boy for nepotism screenwriting say that someone who had to start from scratch and accomplish his goals by himself should “go die” (or words to that effect) to be a bit rich.

  20. Pac: I’ve seen a couple of professional screenwriters defend ML on the nepotism subject saying nepotism would have only gotten him one job, the fact that he still has a screenwriting career is proof that he’s awesome and we’re all just jelly of him.

    My favorite defense of him is both he and his fanboys defend his behavior on his mental health and self esteem issues he has. I hear this all the time defending stand up comedians being the shit stain of the human-race as well. As someone who had to put up with lazy assholes and just straight up assholes who blamed all their ills on their mental health issues his whole life, I call bullshit. I once went to school with a guy with dyslexia and he used that as an excuse for EVERYthing and when we called him out he immediately went into defensive ‘we’re picking on him’ mode. I dunno, maybe it was because I was always told I can’t blame any of my problems on mental health issues (I wasn’t diagnosed with autism/Aspergers till last month and I’m in my fucking 30s) that I kind of take that shit personally.

    That said, I’ll be honest and I don’t know a whole lot about the guy. I know of his reputation and I listened to part of that podcast that vern linked to and read the comments. Also whenever someone complains or reports on him. I will say this, I’m with the guys above and I would like to see Landis knock one out of the park. I think we’d all win with that scenario.

  21. Woah, Moviebastard, don’t drag Kevin Smith into that, who seems to be one of the most humble guys in the biz, considering how he takes every dig against his movie personal in a “Yeah, I guess they are right, it sucks”* way, never stops giving everybody else credit for his successes (Basically every time he advertises one of his current TV episodes, he says: “Watch it tonight, it’s great, but not because of me, I didn’t deserve to direct an episode of SUPERGIRL”) and is fully aware that his current output of movies, that are based on throwaway jokes on his podcasts, are more amusing to himself than the rest of the world and drove away a shit ton of his older fans and supporters.

    RE: Landis nepotism. I won’t deny that he probably got a foot in the door because his dad seems to be a nice guy with a friend or two in the right place, but I’m not sure how “Hi, I’m the son of a director who didn’t have a hit since the late 80s and was the center of one of Hollywood’s most infamous lawsuits”** will take him far these days. Most suits these days probably haven’t even seen BLUES BROTHERS, because it came out before they were born!

    *He still believes that JERSEY GIRL might be his worst movie, because the critics ripped it apart in the post Bennifer climate.

    **Nothing against John Landis.

  22. I have a stupid relationship with Smith. I was one of the ’90s kids whom his work spoke to and thus was a big fan. Then I got older and like Steve Martin said, college humor is generational so I guess I though I was above his stuff. Then everyone started him and I followed along after his anti-critic rant post COP OUT. Then he started making his weird (admittedly questionable quality) smaller movies like RED STATE and TUSKS which EVERYONE seemed to hate but I kinda dug them and read some stuff with him now that the dust has settled and while his constant stream of ‘I suck’ comments can get wearisome. I learned to like the guy again. I’ll never have that love and admiration for the guy I had for him back in the ’90s (I probably shouldn’t rewatch any of them so I can keep the good vibes alive) but I’m trying to be through hating. Doesn’t mean I have to watch YOGA HOSERS but I’d rather be respectful of the guy than shallowly hate him as if he personally slighted me in some way. He at least likes his fans for example even if they are one step below Browncoats.

    As for BLUES BROTHERS, recently rewatched it and it is still an absolutely fantastic movie. It’s also my favorite type of masterpiece/great movie: the one that should not work. The movie barely has any plot but goes on for two and a half hours (critics only allow that shit when it’s a Terrence Mallick joint), scenes exist and things happen for no other reason than to get a celebrity cameo in, every single scene goes on too long, every single thing about the movie is excessive, there’s nothing really likable about the movie’s lead characters, the script was a complete clusterfuck, the production was a complete clusterfuck, etc. But somehow it all came together and is a complete masterpiece of the cinematic comedy art-form. It joins other movies such as CASABLANCA, KING KONG, GODZILLA, STAR WARS, ROBOCOP, MAD MAX FURY ROAD as ones that shouldn’t work at all or even be as good as they are but dammit, a bunch of things just happened to have occurred that caused a masterpiece.

    I also re-watched BLUES BROTHERS 2000. Damn that soundtrack is great.

  23. I like Smith more as a raconteur and personality than as a filmmaker these days. I still appreciate his new post-giving-a-shit career, but he’s joined del Toro in the ranks of directors I’d rather hear talk about their work than watch their work. I haven’t even seen YOGA HOSERS yet, not because I’ve heard it’s barely watchable (by people who watch the unwatchable on a daily basis) but because there’s no director’s commentary.

    He’s still relatively young, though. I think he’s got a few more actual real movies left in him.

  24. Smith is harmless. Sometimes too self-pitying and trying to please everyone (opinion wise not movie wise) for my liking but at least he is still making original shit whenever he wants. He kept his integrity and did shit on his own terms. Respect. Haven’t seen anything he made since CLERKS II outside of TV episodes but will keep an eye on his return to his Jersey universe.

  25. …Guys, max Landis actually has some significant personality disorders, can we cut him some slack? It’s a rare form of bipolar disorder that basically is constantly shifting.

  26. Yoga Hosers is worse than my student films.

  27. Since you brought up Smith, I have to say this. Smith, even at his very worst, feels like an artist with a real distinct voice and point of view. Landis, whatever his talents, has nothing of the sort. It’s mostly just superficial reversals designed to give the appearance of originality but entirely bereft of any meaningful substance. Even at his very worst, Smith has never done that.

    As for YOGA HOSERS, it’s probably too affable and good-natured to be unwatchable. It’s just not a movie. I’m sure it’s a very nice whatever it is, but a movie it is not. Even so, it has infinitely more personality and soul to it than anything Landis has written. YOGA HOSERS is a worse movie than AMERICAN ULTRA on every imaginable technical ground, but I’m much happier that I saw it.

  28. Thanks to Kevin Smith I know what a porch monkey is.

  29. My first exposure to Max Landis was his (early) introductions/commentaries on Trailers From Hell. And, from that, I got that he was exuberant and probably annoying in real life, but I also saw him as a movie lover’s friend. He has some good ideas and an incredible passion. Then I heard about his noxious rep and caught some glimpses of ugly arrogance, intellectual laziness, and empty provocation that did nothing but back that up. Since then, I’ve avoided him so as to preserve his status as one of the good guys. But then he showed up on TFH again, this time talking about The Matrix while sporting a pink suit and a Hitler haircut and…I want to like you, Max Landis, but you have to stop making people not like you first.

  30. Griff: Hey, I didn’t notice your comment until now. Yeah, I always call him Maximum Landis. Like, that’s too much Landis for most people. They can’t take that much Landis. Hey, pal, why don’t you turn down the Landis before somebody gets hurt? Your dad knew that people weren’t ready for all that Landis. He knew to stick with Medium Landis. Moderate Landis even is an acceptable amount of Landis. I think most people could handle that. Then you wouldn’t be having all these problems. You’re just too much Landis. Cool it on all the Landis why don’t you?

    And so on.

  31. caruso_stalker217

    April 6th, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    It’s like, how much more Landis could he be? And the answer is none. None more Landis.

  32. I do have to say, I have genuine pity for the guy if he’s really going to be remaking AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. That’s an absolutely hopeless task, I mean, a nearly perfect setup to fail in the most spectacular and public way while simultaneously forcing people to consider how inferior you are to your own father. Jesus Christ. Nobody deserves that, asshole or no.

  33. Yup, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is a great movie that can’t be improved upon.

    If Max Landis wants to make his own werewolf movie that’s fine, but why does it have to be a direct remake of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON?

  34. Undefeated Gaul: I almost did GREEN STREET 3 as the link. I bought the PAL import just to watch that movie so I should link the review as much as possible. But I thought him playing Darth Vader was actually relevant information because Davide Prowse had played Frankenstein’s monster in THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER OF HELL. So I gave in to logic. I am truly sorry.

  35. The Undefeated Gaul

    April 7th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Obviously logic should never, at any point in life, win out over comedy, but it happens to the best of us. You are forgiven!

  36. I caught a late night showing of this when the important serious awards contender preview I was supposed to be seeing was cancelled – they lost their copy or something.

    It was okay, just kind of lazy. The ending was very disappointing. But I enjoyed James McAvoy’s preposterous acting, and liked Daniel Radcliffe well enough. Anyway, I just wanted to drop in and say that I really enjoyed that Frankenstein’s first semi-successfully aliiiiive experiment – the undead monkey-homunculus – was referred to as Gordon.

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