Starring: Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Bill Nighy (About Time), Yvonne Strahovski (Mass Effect 2), Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard)
Writer/Director: Stuart Beattie (Collateral)
Runtime: 1 hour 33 minutes
Release Date: 24 January (US), 29 January (UK)
With all the repurposing of vampire and werewolf stories in Hollywood, it’s about time that Frankenstein’s Monster got some time to shine. And who more appropriate to bring him back to the forefront than some of the team that brought you the Underworld movies. If it wasn’t already clear to you, I, Frankenstein is not high art. But is this good trash or bad trash?
For a film as ridiculous as this, it’s surprising that it actually is quite reverent to the original Mary Shelley story. But after a brief prologue recapping the classic tale, the film follows the path of outlandishness and never returns. This is by no means is a bad thing; I’m perfectly fine with the idea of putting The Monster (or Adam, as he’s referred to in the picture) in the midst of a sci-fi action film, even one as absurd as this. The problems are much more deeply laden. Firstly, the film’s logic is vague and inconsistent. For example: Adam gets told off by the gargoyles for killing a demon in an alleyway, saying that he’s being reckless and that their struggle should be kept secret. Yet minutes later, the gargoyles and demons engage in a huge battle with hundreds of combatants jumping and flying about in the streets of…whatever city the story takes place in (I guess somewhere in Europe, but they never really establish it and no one speaks with a European accent). Yeah, I’d hardly call their methods discrete. The film pulls stuff like this constantly and it’s hard to believe in what’s going on if the logic of the story doesn’t make sense. Which leads into the film’s main problem: it takes itself way too seriously. I don’t expect it to be taken as a farce, as many of these types of films (such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) are amusing because they take themselves seriously. But there’s treating a ridiculous story seriously, and then there’s believing that a ridiculous story is serious, and I, Frankenstein falls into the latter category. Even the smallest amount of acknowledgement into how stupid this is isn’t made, even when there were plenty of opportunities to do so. Take the character of Dr. Wade (Strahovski): when Adam reveals himself to her or tells her of this secret war between gargoyles and demons, there are ample windows where they could have thrown in some self-deprecating acknowledgement of how crazy it all sounds. But nope, everything is taken with a stone face. This seriousness has the effect of making the film dull and causes the pacing to drag. If no one in the film is having fun, why should we?
Aaron Eckhart is a fine actor, and why on earth he chose this picture is a puzzle I can’t solve. But to his credit, he’s trying. He takes this preposterous script and he sells you on it. He’s hardly a charming protagonist, but where the script fails Eckhart manages to hold it up. But I swear, Adam jumps through so much glass in this movie that he often more resembles the Kool-Aid Man than Frankenstein’s Monster. Everyone else though just looks lost. Mirando Otto and Jai Courtney are decent actors, but here their seriousness and intensity make it look more like they’re in some mediocre Shakespeare production. Yvonne Strahovski is stuck in a seriously underwritten part, and her relationship with Adam is dry and unclear; are they supposed to have some kind of intimate relationship? Bill Nighy seems to be the only one who knows what kind of film he’s in and delivers the same amount of ham you’d find in the Underworld films he was in. Speaking of Underworld, Kevin Grevioux has a small role here, and goddamn is his voice deep. He makes James Earl Jones sound like Mickey Mouse.
In this genre, the visuals and action have to carry a lot. And whilst I’m deeply grateful that this isn’t another shaky-cam fest, the action scenes aren’t that impressive. Most of them are a CG extravaganza of gargoyles flying around and demons exploding into flames, and the few that aren’t are run-of-the-mill. The CG itself can look decent enough from a distance, but when viewed up close looks more like something from a video game, and not a particularly good one. The production design is pretty weak, especially the design of Adam himself. There are so many things they could have done to make The Monster look unique, but here it’s just Aaron Eckhart with a bunch of scars. Really imaginative work there, people.
I, Frankenstein isn’t the train wreck that it’s 5% on Rotten Tomatoes suggests. It’s bad, but not awful. The potential for a goofy but fun movie is hidden somewhere in here, but the lack of logic, hammy acting and lacklustre design and effects leave you with a movie that won’t frustrate you but won’t entertain you much either. Perhaps next year’s version of the story brought to us by Paul McGuigan and Max Landis will present a much more entertaining Frankenstein tale.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/10