I really wasn't sure what to expect when I first heard about this film. I wanted to see it based solely on the cast -- the always brilliant James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Andrew Scott (primarily known to me as Moriarty on the BBC's Sherlock series), Mark Gatiss (Mycroft on Sherlock, and also writer and actor for Doctor Who), and the inimitable Charles Dance.
Life being what it is, I wasn't able to see the film when it first released, and subsequent negative reviews made me a little hesitant to see it after all, despite the excellent cast. I finally bit the bullet today and rented it from Prime, and I'm so, so happy that I did (and regret not ignoring the critics, and seeing it five years ago).
This is an excellent movie, managing to take the familiar plot and turn it askew just enough to make it seem fresh, new, and interesting again. Although Daniel Radcliffe will always be Harry to me, he gives a remarkable and very sympathetic performance as Igor, who is discovered by Victor Frankenstein at the circus, and subsequently rescued from his life of misery and pain. Frankenstein takes Igor under his wing after witnessing him save the life of a trapeze artist, Lorelei, displaying medical skills he had been honing in secret. Frankenstein repairs Igor's twisted body (as it happens, he's not actually a hunchback, but had suffered from a buildup of excess fluid around his spine, which Frankenstein relieves). Igor quickly becomes Frankenstein's right-hand man, and indeed becomes a new man entirely, as Frankenstein has opened for him a world in which he never dreamed he would ever take part -- that of money, society, and respect.
For me, Igor's redemption is what lies at the heart of the film, but of course it would be impossible to overlook McAvoy's towering performance as Victor Frankenstein, who is by turns brilliant, manic, depraved and captivating. The script is clever and it's an absolute pleasure to witness McAvoy deliver his lines, eyes wide and darting, with a wolfish grin that never quite leaves his expressive face (anyone who saw Split knows that this man has quickly become a master of his craft).
As for the "feel" of the film, some have basically described it as Guy Ritchie's Frankenstein, and I don't entirely disagree, but I would counter that this movie has a softer edge and bit more of an empathetic angle than most Ritchie films, which makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. In addition to having characters you actually care about, Victor Frankenstein is just a really good-looking film, with sets capturing all the grit, grime and gore of the time period combined with special effects that are perfectly executed (not too garish, not too subtle -- just right). The costumes are perfect and there's plenty of action which keeps the pace humming along. I loved every minute of it.
Don't make my mistake and let the negative reviews scare you away -- this is an excellent, very entertaining movie that I think everyone should see, not just Frankenstein (or McAvoy, or Radcliffe) fans. Get some snacks, some refreshing drinks, dim the lights, close the curtains and settle in with Victor Frankenstein. You won't regret it. :)