It’s been quite a while since the monster from Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ shuffled across screens in a Hollywood horror yarn. A decent reboot for the character might actually be worth offering a fistful of cash over to the studio machine to experience. Sadly, ‘I, Frankenstein’ is not that movie.
Instead, ‘Underworld’ idea man Kevin Grevioux and screenwriter-turned-director Stuart Beattie (‘Austrailia’, ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’) have delivered a bubblegum goth fantasy in which Frankenstein’s monster engages in choreographed fight sequences with demons and gargoyles.
So, a traditional take on the character this is not. Regardless, the flick may have had a shot at being a guilty pleasure in the ‘Blade’ mold, but the would-be blockbuster is marred by the same ludicrously convoluted mythology, needlessly dreary tone, tiresome action, dully dark cinematography, and wasted Bill Nighy stunt casting that prevented the ‘Underworld’ franchise from ever feeling as fun as it should have.
After a brief prologue whips through the classic ‘Frankenstein’ story just fast enough to remind you how good it is, Beattie and Grevioux dive into their silliness by having Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) trained by gargoyles to fight in the middle of a gargoyle/demon war that has apparently plagued Earth for centuries. (Don’t worry about why or how. It will just make your brain hurt.) Then Eckhart’s monster wanders the Earth for a few centuries, gets a haircut, buys a hoodie, and turns up in the modern day just in time to take part in a gargoyle/demon battle with apocalyptic potential. Eckhart then broods for a bit with gargoyle queen Miranda Otto (‘Lord of the Rings’), butts heads with Bill Nighy’s evil demon king, and befriends a sexy scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) for some reason. In between, he kicks a whole bunch of demon butt via some decent martial arts action scenes with nice practical makeup and cheapo large-scale CGI battles filtered through poorly post-converted 3D. Yep, it’s all a big pile of gobbledygook, and not even a fun one.
The biggest problem with ‘I, Frankenstein’ is tone. A movie in which Frankenstein’s monster punches demons in the face will inevitably come off as a little silly. The ideal approach would be to run with that and play it tongue-in-cheek like an early Sam Raimi movie. Unfortunately, Beattie plays things seriously throughout. As a result, all the hokey dialogue and boneheaded storytelling becomes impossible to ignore. Admittedly, some of the practical fights and effects are decent, Eckhart commits to his role with unexpected gravitas, and Bill Nighy has a ball mugging it up as Satan’s little helper. However, none of the high points matter much when the film containing them is too dull and misguidedly self-important to offer much in the way of popcorn entertainment.
It’s not a horrible movie, but it’s such a needlessly convoluted, clichéd and boring one to qualify as a failure despite all the talent involved. Good ol’ neck bolts wasn’t treated very well in this failed comeback vehicle. Hopefully, one of the other ‘Frankenstein’ projects in development from the likes of Guillermo del Toro or Max Landis will finally deliver a new movie worthy of Mary Shelley’s undead legacy.