I, Frankenstein opens as Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) has murdered Dr. Frankenstein’s wife and fled to the North Pole. Dr. Frankenstein pursues his creation and eventually freezes to death. As the monster is burying his creator, he is inexplicably attacked by demons and then saved by gargoyles. The gargoyles capture him and take him to their cathedral fortress where the monster meets gargoyle queen Lenore (Miranda Otto). She goes on explain that he is caught in the middle of the ancient war between good and evil; or in this case, demons and gargoyles. She renames the monster ‘Adam’, imploring his help. He ignores her pleas and escapes. We then flash forward 200 years as Adam, with freshly groomed hair and adorned in a hooded jacket and denim jeans, is still fighting demons. He is eventually drawn into an elaborate plan of demon-prince Naberius (Bill Nighy) to re-animate corpses with the spirits of vanquished demons. Of course, he requires the science of Dr. Frankenstein for this to work, along with the assistance of a female scientist (Yvonne Strahovski). The story is completely absurd and cannot be salvaged by the presence of otherwise impressive and capable character actors Echkart, Nighy and Otto.
I, Frankenstein is unoriginal, uninspired, and completely facile. The production and costume design are facsimiles from a multitude of other medieval/gothic/fantasy films that have come before. The music is obtrusively loud and derivative, except for the addition of ethereal female vocals that sounds a lot like Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator). I could have gladly watched a blank screen with her voice playing over the speakers for the same amount of time. Alas, this was not the case. The dialogue is stolid and banal, meant entirely to explain the plot without much thought to inflection or subtlety. The CGI, which usually forms the crux of these superficial action films, is mediocre and the demon makeup looks fake and cheesy.
The film is directed and written by Stuart Beattie, the same man who wrote G. I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and Australia, so this garish display is not entirely unexpected. But this is also the same man who wrote Collateral, directed by Michael Mann that was an exhilarating thriller bolstered by outstanding performances and engaging dialogue. The nuance and depth of examination applied to those characters certainly does not apply here.
When every aspect of a film is dull and unengaging, you know there’s a problem. I, Frankenstein is obviously trying to follow in the successful footsteps of Underworld. It fails. It is more like the turgid Van Helsing. There are many other fantastic films playing in cinemas at the moment. Go see them – avoid I, Frankenstein at all costs.
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