Review: I, Frankenstein / Cert: 12A / Director: Stuart Beattie / Screenplay: Kevin Grevioux, Stuart Beattie / Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney / Release Date: January 29th
When a film so clearly takes its "inspiration" from those that have gone before, it's not unreasonable to expect it to add something to the formula. Not so with I, Frankenstein.
Like the eponymous monster I, Frankenstein is a hideous assemblage of spare parts, in this case from the Underworld films and 2004's Van Helsing. It takes some of their visual styling and the motif of a secret war between legendary monsters, replacing vampires and werewolves with demons and gargoyles (yes... gargoyles!), spliced together with the concept from Van Helsing that Frankenstein's creature somehow holds the key to the war. I, Frankenstein adds nothing to this mix and even fails to meet the expectation set by the worst moments of either of those films.
Jumping off from where Mary Shelley's novel ended, Frankenstein's monster returns from the frozen North in 1795 to bury his creator, only to be set upon at the family plot. One of the attackers helpfully melts his own face off to reveal a demon head underneath and the battle is joined by winged stone creatures, who whisk the monster away for a horrendous infodump from Miranda Otto's Leonore.
Charged by the Archangel Michael to battle demons, Leonore is leader of the order of the gargoyles who fear what plans the demons have for the monster. After being named Adam and taught how to "descend" the demons back to hell, the monster stops off at the weapons shed and returns to the generic "North".
After 300 years hiding in the wilderness, an attack prompts Frankenstein to return to the city to stamp out all the demons. No other motivation is given for his return, our "hero" does not come to some great realisation, he simply decides after a second attack by demons that now they must be wiped out, and it's not just the monster's motivation that seems half-baked. The whole film feels badly thought out and hastily arranged. The dialogue is lumpen, the plot plods from A to B to C to D (and sometimes back to C a number of times), never taking any narrative chances or surprising the audience in any way, and the whole thing is completely lacking in humour. There are some minor glimmers of style in some of the fight sequences but most of these consist of slightly moving slowmo images with fire and flying monsters, without much of the feel of an actual fight. All of this combines to make the film feel like a series of events happening just so the next set piece or infodump can occur while ignoring all the questions and issues raised by earlier scenes.
Why do the demons looks like the Wishmaster? Why do the gargoyles bother turning into humans with a CGI budget-friendly sweep of their wings, seeing as they seem to have no undercover lives? Why can't either side get reinforcements from their respective bosses? Why has no one realised the demons' lair is ten minutes' walking distance from gargoyle HQ? Why is Adam seemingly indestructible in one scene and easily harmed in the next? Why does the whole film go out of its way to avoid naming the city, or even the country that the story takes place in? When trying to escape and backed against a window why does Adam bother to wait for Bill Nighy to finish his speech before jumping through it? Will Jai Courtney have any career left after this and last year's A Good Day to Die Hard? Why did Aaron Eckhart agree to do this?
Eckhart delivers a raspy performance as the monster, the minimal makeup not quite hindering his attractiveness, but he's not given all that much to do. He growls and glowers from scene to scene, while Otto poses and Nighy faxes over a copy of his performances as Viktor in the Underworld films, minus the violent neck twitching.
Any interesting ideas raised by the film, such as whether it's possible for Adam to have a soul or not, are completely glossed over in favour of another unimpressive action scene in this lazy and aggressively dumb film.
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10