Today: February 20, 2024

I, Frankenstein

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, has had many different interpretations over the years. Part of this is down to the basic concept of the monster as an outcast is ripe for metaphor or story possibilities. Screenwriter Kevin Grevioux, creator of Underworld, found an interesting role for the creature in his comic series I, Frankenstein, putting him in the role as an antihero in a supernatural war. It’s a decent set-up for a big, silly action fest, but under Stuart Beattie‘s screenplay and direction, it fails to come alive.

After the events of the original story of Frankenstein, the Monster (Aaron Eckhart) has found himself suddenly the target of interest by a group of demons for unknown reasons. He is saved by the Gargoyle order, a group of angelic beings that can take on the form of stone warriors. Despite the offers of the order’s queen Leonore (Miranda Otto), who even offers him the name Adam, the monster decides he wants no part in the conflict. Two hundred years later, he finds himself back on the radar of the demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy), and once he finds out what he’s needed for, Adam must become not just a soldier in the war; he must lead it.

The film creates a fun, pulp comic world for itself, but the problem is it hurls you into it way too fast. By seven minutes in, it’s already had a massive battle scene and introduced all the back-story in a huge rush, not stopping for questions like “why are the angels gargoyles again?”. By introducing all this so fast, the film denies itself the chance to have an effective escalation of events. You’ve already seen most of the eye candy early on, so there’s really nothing to build to. The demons when killed (which seems to be really easy to do; what sort of spawns of hell are these?) burst into a woosh of flame plunging back into the stygian pit. It’s somewhat impressive the first time but after so many scenes of it happening, it gets very old fast, not helped by the fact that there’s very little variation in the action scenes beyond how many are fighting, and form, be it human or demon/gargoyle, they happen to be in.

The fact that the films’ action is disappointing is a major issue since there’s virtually nothing else to this film, it’s all so shallow. The monst- sorry, Adam’s storyline tries to say he’s a misunderstood loner in search of answers. Not only does it not deliver on that, just having him your bog standard mopey, selfish anti-hero, but the film doesn’t even really explain what sort of answers he’s after. He knows what he is and who made him from the word go, so what more is there for him too know? Plot wise, the main conflict and the reason for Adam’s role in it are kind of interesting, but the fact is the characters have no character, there’s no suggestion of what any of these people do when there’s not a battle to be fought. In fact, it’s suggested that the gargoyles literally do nothing but sit on rooftops when there are no demons to kill. It’s possible that many of the story issues are the fault of the editing, given the very short runtime, but the truly awful dialogue does suggest that this was hardly a master class to begin with.

This film is just a mess. Most of the actors do try their hardest, with Aaron Eckhart having a bit of charisma to him, Nighy giving the right amount of old-school ham to his villain, and Miranda Otto having a bit of fun as the queen. Much of the rest of the cast though aren’t much to write home about, with Jai Courtney in particular just being awful. The look of the film, while conceptually interesting, really doesn’t work in this CGI heavy style, it’s just ugly to look at. Overall, this film isn’t even fun in a cheesy video night way, with not even decent enough eye candy to make it worthwhile. It does have one distinction though. In its story of Frankenstein’s monster being hunted by evil forces for the secret of life, with characters that turn into horrible look CGI winged creatures, it will actually make you nostalgic for Van Helsing!

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