Film scores

Soundtrack review: Victor Frankenstein (Craig Armstrong – 2015)

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“Victor Frankenstein” is a 2015 American science fiction horror film based on contemporary adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein. It is directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Max Landis and is starring James McAvoy as the title character and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor. When the experiments of radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) go too far, only Igor Strausman (Daniel Radcliffe), his equally brilliant protégé, can bring him back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation. The score was written by Crag Armstrong and this makes me tingle even more than the story. Could he match my current favorite Frankenstein score, the one by Patrick Doyle?

As the score starts I notice some similarities in sound with Armstrong’s work for “The incredible Hulk”. In the first cue that mentions Victor there’s the same urgency and unrest and made that score work 10 years ago. I am familiar with this sound and I am comfortable in listening it. The music develops into a solid adventure fantasy score which lacks a specific or memorable theme. The meat of the score is action but for me there’s nothing to tie the music to this specific movie or story. It’s a composition I’ve heard before from people like Alan Silvestri or Danny Elfman. My memories of scores from past years mix as “Victor Frankenstein” progresses.

I find the emotional parts of this score more interesting than the action moments. When I hear a flute and string theme like “The hospital” I can imagine my own stories or think about my own memories. The dreamier sequences like “Igor transformed” also appeal to me even if I’ve heard them before. I think Craig Armstrong decided to take the safe route with this one and go for a score that will please almost everyone without leaving lasting marks.

Cues like the “Dark red theme” trilogy (for some reason presented in descending order on the score) show the potential of this composition. I feel those cues like doors blocked by chains; I can rattle them and peak inside at the good stuff but I can’t open them. I wanted more of that, more of the choral parts from “Basement raid”. As well as this score works in the moment when I listen to it, as soon as the cues are over I have a hard time distinguishing them.

The score for “Victor Frankenstein” was way too nice for what it should have been. There wasn’t any madness in it or cues that would make me think of monsters. The music didn’t focus on the inner tribulations of the characters either; if just provided a setting and it showed me, through the window, what was going on in the house. I am left with the feeling that I didn’t get to experience the most interesting parts. That being said, the music more than deserved my time, one time

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 68

Album excellence: 25%

Highlights:

 

 

Igor Transformed

Dark Red Theme 3

Prometheus Ascending

Finale

Reunited

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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