James McAvoy

REVIEW: Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Told from Igor’s (Daniel Radcliffe) perspective, the troubled young apprentice tells the tale of his unhappy life before being rescued and befriended by Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) and how they worked together to create life where it should not be.

The story of Frankenstein is so well known – it’s the blueprint for the monster genre – that it is nice to see a film that does try and put its own spin on things, however that doesn’t mean it’s successful in doing so. Having Igor being the main character is new and having him being intelligent and not a snivelling sidekick to Frankenstein was interesting. He goes from being downtrodden and never having anyone care about him, or even see him as a human being, to being more self-assured thanks to Frankenstein’s friendship and belief in him – that turn around is very quick though.

McAvoy as Frankenstein is good fun, the way he annunciates certain words or gets into other characters personal spaces is unsettling as he seems like he’s living life on a knifes edge. His Frankenstein is obsessive and volatile and is indeed the quintessential mad scientist. The characteristics of this Frankenstein seems to take a lot of inspiration from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the tone and filming and editing style seems to be trying to emulate the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films. There’s the bickering relationship between Frankenstein and Igor, the random slow-motion shots in action sequences, the illustrated title cards, and one scene where Igor runs through a forest seemed to be a poor imitation of a sequence in A Game of Shadows.

Besides from the ethical dilemma of what Frankenstein and Igor are trying to achieve, the main antagonist for them is Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott) who is investigating the thefts of human and animal bodies parts. He is also obsessive and unfortunately quickly becomes a cartoonish villain – though a verbal sparring session between him and Frankenstein is one of the more compelling parts of the film.

The editing in the scenes where Frankenstein and Igor have successfully animated a dead body and then everything goes wrong is not good. Especially in the final showdown it is difficult to keep track of where characters are in relation to each other and to generally have a good idea of the space they are currently inhabiting. It’s hard to keep track of what’s happening and minor antagonists are dispatched so quickly it’s laughable.

While Victor Frankenstein does attempt to breathe new life (ha!) into a well-known story, in the end the final act becomes a clichéd monster movie and the lead up to it often feels like you’ve seen it before due to character and stylistic choices being so similar to previous big franchises. 2/5.

REVIEW: Arthur Christmas (2011)

When a child is missed on Christmas Eve, Arthur (James McAvoy) the clumsy youngest son of Santa (Jim Broadbent), races against time to deliver her present with the help of elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) and his grandfather (Bill Nighy), much to the dismay of his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) who runs a tight ship at Christmas and isn’t impressed with Arthur putting the whole operation at risk.

Arthur Christmas is a lot of fun and a great adventure. It pokes fun on how Christmas is so commercialised nowadays and it’s almost a military operation to get all the presents and organise everything when the shops are heaving with people. At the North Pole Santa is more of a figure head of Christmas, and instead it’s his son Steve, along with millions of elves, that run the show. The sequences of the elves dropping off presents in dozens of homes in seconds are entertaining and inventive and they contrast nicely with the picture of Santa and his helpers that we generally have. That kind of typical Christmas is what Grandsanta reminisces about, when he used a wooden sleigh and a dozen reindeer to deliver presents.

Arthur loves Christmas. He believes whole heartedly in what his father does, the magic of Christmas and that every child matters. He’s almost naïve in his enthusiastic optimism, especially next to Steve’s stoic pragmaticism, but it’s charming too as he wants everyone’s Christmas to be special.

The dialogue is hilarious, and the writing is so sharp that the family arguments feel real. While Mrs Santa (voiced by Imelda Staunton) doesn’t have as large a role, she’s a soothing presence over tense family dinners and a the most practical out of all her family members. There’s a lot of great sight gags too, many of them courtesy of the countless elves running around the place.

The animation is beautiful and impressive. From how the operations centre at the North Pole is shown off in all it’s glory with all the screens and high-tech gadgetry to then how Arthur, his family and the elves feel so warm and alive. The North Pole is all icy blues but the colourful Christmassy jumpers and clothes that Arthur and his family wears brighten up the place and makes it feel lived in.

Arthur Christmas isn’t just a funny film, it’s also one filled with heart and sentimentality without being too twee. It does such a good job at offering a new and imaginative take on how Santa could possibly deliver presents to every child around the world, while never losing the spirit of Christmas. Arthur Christmas is a proper old-fashioned family film that everyone, no matter their age or whether or not they believe in Santa, can enjoy. 5/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

x-men apocalypse movie posterWhen the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) re-emerges after thousands of years, the X-Men must unite to defeat him and his plan to destroy all of humanity.

X-Men: Apocalypse see’s the return of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his students. There’s many familiar faces including Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) and Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) as well as a host of new students. These newer characters, playing younger versions of characters we’ve seen before, all fit in well with the action and do a good job – especially Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Nightcrawler. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) also returns and she plays a bigger role and is on a different side to the one you might expect.

Quicksilver steals every scene he’s in. Much like in Days of Future Past, there’s a scene in X-Men: Apocalypse which really shows off his power and it’s both funny and exciting. Plus, he bounces off a lot of the other characters well and brings a level of humour to an otherwise potentially very grim movie.

X-Men: Apocalypse is surprisingly violent comic book superhero movie aimed primarily at kids. There’s scene where characters get brutally beaten and there’s a lot of blood, there’s what could be described as body horror with Angel (Ben Hardy) and overall it’s definitely the darkest and goriest X-Men movie to date. It is jarring and disturbing to see though it does the job of showing how powerful and threatening Apocalypse can be.

While Apocalypse is sometimes an opposing figure, he is not a terrifying villain. His four horseman, bar Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who gets another tragic backstory, are seriously underdeveloped. Angel’s character is non-existent and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is given little to do, Storm (Alexandra Shipp) fares only slightly better as you encounter her before she becomes a disciple of Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining film, it’s gripping and exciting but it’s the heroes you find yourself more invested in than an average villain. 4/5.