'Victor Frankenstein': Hollywood puts new spin on a classic horror story

'Frankenstein' stars James McAvoy as the scientist and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant, Igor. Will an old story and a new twist appeal to audiences over Thanksgiving weekend?

20th Century Fox/YouTube
'Victor Frankenstein' stars Daniel Radcliffe (l.) and James McAvoy (r.).

This Thanksgiving, Hollywood is putting a new spin on Mary Shelley’s famous story. 

“Victor Frankenstein,” which is now in theaters, stars James McAvoy as the famous scientist and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant, Igor. For those who are most familiar with Gene Wilder dancing or Boris Karloff’s shambling, this new film has more action-adventure than audiences might expect, judging from the trailers.

In addition, McAvoy says the story may have more background about Victor’s motivations than moviegoers may be familiar with.

“You can’t just have a crazy mad scientist and he’s crazy just because he is,” the actor said of character motivations in an interview. “He’s driven just because he is. He’s obsessed just because he is. [In this film], you learn a little bit more ‘why’… He can’t really connect with anybody. He can’t really see the world. All he sees is what he wants until he meets Igor. He suddenly finds someone who is exceptional and on a par with him in some ways… That becomes the only real connection he’s had in his life.” 

In addition, Radcliffe says that the part of the story that audiences may think of first when they hear the name “Frankenstein” isn’t central to the narrative. 

“The main monster isn’t created until nearer the end of the movie, whereas traditionally it’s something that happens earlier,” Radcliffe said in an interview. “So it’s less about what happens to the world after the monster is created and the monster in general. It’s more about the relationship between Frankenstein and Igor preceding it.” 

“Frankenstein” also stars “Downton Abbey” actress Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott of “Sherlock,” and “Game of Thrones” actor Charles Dance.

Judging by the trailers, the tone of “Frankenstein” may have been inspired by the hugely successful “Sherlock Holmes” film series, which stars Robert Downey Jr. as the sleuth and Jude Law as his sidekick Watson. 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” and 2011’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” told the story of Sherlock and Watson’s adventures but also featured many action sequences as well as humor. 

These adaptations are also indicative of a larger trend. Hollywood continues to strive to balance the appeal of old and new when producing films. In “Sherlock” and “Frankenstein” and in, for example, the live-action adaptations of animated movies that Disney continues to produce, Hollywood attempts to draw in moviegoers with familiar characters and titles that they would recognize but provide a fresh spin so audiences will be curious to see the new version and not feel they’ve seen it all before. 

Some movies succeed better at this than others. The "Amazing Spider-Man" film series starring Andrew Garfield, for example, was released seven years after a different "Spider-Man" movie with Tobey Maguire. The new movies had new cast members and attempted to showcase different stories, but audiences may have felt the stories were too familiar – reviews were mixed and the new movies never made as much money at the box office as the original series.

Moviegoers no doubt remember the story of Frankenstein but the movie apparently explores a different aspect of the story than most audience members would have seen already.

Will audiences want to see a new take on the tale over Thanksgiving?

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