I, Frankenstein is the type of film you can easily disregard and treat as a joke just from the posters and cookie-cutter trailer alone. I went into the film determined not to judge this book by its cover and to try and have fun with this gritty-yet-goofy looking gothic action flick. This would not be the case. Sadly, I, Frankenstein is just as uninspired, humourless and frankly boring as the aforementioned trailer makes it out to be. There is no sense of adventure, scope, creativity or levity to be found in here, just pompous dialogue, passable CGI and a cast of stiff mannequins that resemble actors you’ve enjoyed elsewhere.
Directed and co-written by Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow, When the War Began), I, Frankenstein follows Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart), renamed Adam in the film, as he is pulled into an ancient war between the Gargoyle Order and demons seeking to invade the mortal world. Adam becomes integral to the demons’ plans as his being reanimated from the dead, and therefore not having a soul, makes him the key to creating an undead army for them to possess. Spoiler: turns out he had a soul the whole time.
“But wait!” I hear you say, “Why is it called I, Frankenstein when that isn’t even the name of the monster the whole movie is about, but of the scientist who created him (and barely features in this story at all)?” Don’t worry, head demon Bill ‘surely-he-knows-he’s-better-than-this’ Nighy makes some throwaway line about him being his father’s son, justifying the marketing boon of a recognizable character in the film’s title.
Before we get too negative though, let’s talk about what the film did have going for it. It was a fun idea to substitute angels with gargoyles in the film’s war between heaven and hell. Co-writer Kevin Grevioux obviously sought to recall his work on Underworld and have another secret war between two mythical monsters. Unfortunately, the film never does anything interesting with the concept. The demons just wear stupid masks and growl – a lot – while the gargoyles fly around for a bit and then transform into a bunch of self-righteous wankers who bitch and moan about all the demons running around, but never do anything about it despite the fact that their base of operations is only a few f***ing blocks over.
Well, talking about the movie’s good points didn’t last long did it? It would be OK if the film’s only sin was being a little uninspired, but there are so many components that have the undeniable stink of laziness that it’s hard not to feel a little insulted. Straight away, from the overly narrated prologue, the film dizzies its audience by bouncing you around with a series of poorly paced time jumps before prescribing a bucket-load of exposition to regain your equilibrium. The motivation for Adam getting involved in the war is about as contrived as you can get, not to mention completely unnecessary given how important he is for the demons’ plan. In fact, the whole opening could probably just be chopped. At least that way there’d be a sense of mystery about the hero and the world.
Even the action fails to excite. The sequences are all so tight and quick-cutting that it becomes a chore to watch the battles unfold. I, Frankenstein tries to channel Blade in style (complete with a demon nightclub), but it’s an artificial flavouring that fails to capture what was actually cool about that character and his films. And while we’re on the subject, what is the point of setting an ancient and mythical war in the modern world if you’re just going to make everyone fight with medieval weaponry? The film even makes a point of saying any weapon can be used to kill a demon so long as it bares the gargoyles symbol, and yet there isn’t a single sanctified sub-machine gun to be seen. What a waste…
Not even Eckhart can elevate this shambling mess, instead he turns in an uncharacteristically wooden performance that makes it clear just how below him he believes the film to be (and it is). To be honest, it probably isn’t his fault. Beattie clearly wants to paint I, Frankenstein ‘grim and gritty’ grey, so Eckhart was probably encouraged to carry out his unchanging expression and faux-Batman soliloquies. More insulting is how little design effort went into their realisation of Frankenstein’s monster; they just slap on some facial scarring and call it a day. It’s bad enough that this creature (who we are told is a vagrant living outside society) walks around with a dapper head of hair clearly obtained from a boutique salon, but when we are forced to watch the moonlight shine off Eckhart’s glistening abs while his character convalesces it’s asking a bit too much. Guys, he’s either an abomination or a sex-symbol, you can’t have it both ways.
At least, as an Australian, I can appreciate that Beattie had this $65 million waste of time filmed in Melbourne, injecting a healthy dose of American money into our local industry. But even that is soured by the fact that Australia was the second to last country to receive the film, with a 20-day gap from its latest international release and 2 months from its US opening. But, I digress. It’s just so hard to find anything to care about in I, Frankenstein when it feels like no one involved in making it did either. There’s just no excuse in not putting in at least a little effort to make a movie that a paying audience deserves, it’s kind of their job as filmmakers… just as it’s my job as a reviewer to give I, Frankenstein a score that it deserves.