Victor Frankenstein ★★★★

For its first three-quarters, Paul McGuigan's "Victor Frankenstein" is more gothic-era adventure than it is horror film. A spry, uptempo, and winkily charming observation of Shelley's monster maker and his assistant, the film combines contemporary energy with two-centuries-old designs. Though it becomes something expectedly morose by film's end, "Victor Frankenstein" is, by and large, a clever, surprisingly entertaining, and handsomely assembled piece of work.

Beginning before the creation of a certain pieced-together creature, "Victor Frankenstein" revolves around the relationship between James McAvoy's Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe's Igor. The narrative is not a stuffy and stiff tale of a God-player, but an impassioned and fun story of a scientist and his allies at odds with the conservative approach to life, medicine, and science. Even though it descends into a disappointingly rote approach by the climax, the narrative is compelling and blends its wry sensibilities with weighty and expected themes.

The production, like the film's story and tone, also compels. Taking place in richly designed and fully rendered world, the film unfolds in a traditional European landscape clashing with scientific renaissance and industrial revolution. Sets are well-appointed, and the film's aesthetic is a blend of passionate color, cobblestone, and spark. McGuigan composes stirring shots, and his cameras soar. The film has a quick rhythm to go with its inviting look. Casting McAvoy and Radcliffe may be the film's greatest attribute. Besides their buddy-cop movie chemistry, the two easily communicate the film's tone and necessary emotions.

"Victor Frankenstein" immediately shakes off low expectations and sets itself up as a rollicking and effortlessly enjoyable horror-adventure. Making the most of its sharp casting, layered look, and electric spirit, the film thoroughly entertains. It may not be able to maintain its infectious sense of self for its entire running time, but "Victor Frankenstein" consistently works well and is effectively pleasing.