Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein has endured a huge number of adaptations, with some retellings and movies having very little resemblance to the original story. The newest incarnation of the tale is the recently released film Victor Frankenstein, starring James McAvoy as Victor Frankenstein and Dan as his assistant Igor. This movie is nothing like its predecessors – rather than place the spotlight on the doctor, the focus is on Dan in his role as Igor – and is a fresh addition to the lengthy lineup of Frankenstein films.
Though the older classics, like The Curse of Frankenstein, stay true to many key details in Shelley’s novel, Victor Frankenstein is part of the greater majority that stray drastically from the source material – but is a good thing in this case. Many of Dan’s fans going to see the movie may be unaware of one major change in this rendition: while the focus is planted on Dan’s character, Igor is actually not a character that appears in Mary Shelley’s original novel.
The 1931 movie Frankenstein featured the doctor’s first lab assistant, Fritz. By the time the second and third sequels to the film came along – Son of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) – “Fritz” had fallen by the wayside and the character was referred to as Igor (Ygor) on-screen. Victor Frankenstein is unique in the sense that viewers are getting a whole new viewpoint into the relationship between the doctor and his hunchbacked assistant through the eyes of Igor, making this one of the farthest stretches from the original novel to date.
Bela Lugosi played Igor in the 1939 and 1942 sequels and gave the character a signature style that endured for decades. Dan’s portrayal of Igor takes the audience back to his roots as a worker in a traveling circus, where he met Victor Frankenstein (who was a medical student at the time). The film details how Igor and Victor became confidants and partners in crime, as well as how each changed the other’s attitude towards life and death. Dan does an excellent job giving the audience a better view of how Igor’s dark personality developed as a result of his relationship with Frankenstein. The emotional conflict and inner turmoil that Igor experiences turns him from a detestable occasional character in the franchise to one that deserves greater sympathy and is essential to Frankenstein’s own history.
While the critics and reviews have been rather harsh and the unfortunate holiday weekend opening only pulling in a shoddy $3.4 million, Dan and McAvoy’s performances are anything but subpar. The drama is ever-present, beginning with Igor being violently assaulted by other clowns and Victor rushing in as a mysterious doctor to save the day – and further amplified by gross-out gore and chase scenes with a pious Scotland Yard detective (Andrew Scott) who is routinely trying to arrest Victor. A self taught physician, Igor makes a quick turn around from hunchbacked circus freak to faithful assistant once Victor comes to his aid, and offers in return all he has in loyalty and friendship.
So, how does Victor Frankenstein compare to Mary Shelley’s novel? It actually has more to do with the Frankenstein mythology formed through the series of films than the book that started it all, while also paying homage to many fan-favorite elements from the book and past Frankenstein movies equally. Victor Frankenstein is not a retelling of Shelley’s tale – instead, this film gives Igor a background and takes him from sidekick assistant to a key player in the evolution of Frankenstein himself. Dan brings a depth and dimension to Igor that aren’t present in other Frankenstein movies, and his portrayal of the character makes this film a standout addition to the franchise.
Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, pop culture, and lifestyle blogger for directstartv.com from the windy city of Chicago, IL. A movie lover since day one; he wishes it were possible to travel back to the golden era of Hollywood. In his free time he is busy attempting to train his owl to deliver packages for him. His efforts have, so far, yielded no results.
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