I, Frankenstein


  • Movie Review
  • Friday, 24 Jan 2014

Stone temple warrior: ‘Get back, vile demons, or I’ll smite you with my ... carpet-beater. Yeah.’

Starring : Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto and Jai Courtney

Director : Stuart Beattie

Release Date : 23 Jan 2014

CGI-heavy fantasy flick delivers lots of action and has a cool hero, but the dialogue is pretty dire.

THE greatest achievement of this movie is the way it gets all the actors to deliver their lines with a straight face. It’s anyone’s guess how many takes were required to achieve this, but I figure no one can utter dialogue like “I am Leonore, queen of the gargoyle order” without cracking up on the first few run-throughs.

Possibly, stuff like this doesn’t sound so odd when it’s read in your head, off a speech balloon in a graphic novel – yes, this is yet another movie based on a comic, written by Kevin Grevioux (better known as Raze from the Underworld films) who also has a small role in this movie.

But surely, at some point during the adaptation process or script rehearsals, someone should have noticed that “gargoyle” isn’t exactly a gravitas-friendly word. Even if it is in a fantasy flick.

Director/co-writer Stuart Beattie (whose only other directing credit is the “Australian Red Dawn”,Tomorrow When The War Began) mixes a lot of the back story into the script, with the result that I, Frankenstein hurls expository dialogue at the viewer like fireballs from a pyrokinetic on PCP.

In short order, its characters and the audience are told and expected to accept that: a) Frankenstein’s monster is not only “real” but ageless; b) there is an ongoing war between gargoyles and Lucifer’s 666 legions of demons; c) the monster has a big part to play in the demons’ plans; and d) Bill Nighy has added playing yet another supernatural Big Bad to his resume.

Stone temple warrior: ‘Get back, vile demons, or I’ll smite you with my ... carpet-beater. Yeah.’

Yet the film thrusts its premise upon the viewer so unabashedly, and so rapidly that you don’t have any time to dwell on the sheer absurdity of it all, that you get swept along on its CGI-enhanced rollercoaster ride. Thankfully, too, it’s not that long a ride.

There’s plenty of action, much comic-book-hero posing, and Aaron Eckhart makes a believable action hero out of Frankenstein’s monster; or Adam, as the gargoyle queen names him.

He kicks demon butt with style, has a suitably deep voice to sound the way a patchwork monster in search of meaning in his life should sound, and has possibly the most sympathetic eyes of any movie Frankenstein yet.

As a Chuck fan, I didn’t mind that they cast Yvonne Strahovski as an electrophysiologist (hey, at least it’s a real profession, unlike symbologist) seeking to replicate Dr Frankenstein’s work – nope, didn’t mind one bit.

Everyone else looks and behaves as you would expect. Led by Nighy, the bad guys all have a surly balefulness about them. And over on the side of the angels, Miranda Otto and Jack Reacher baddie Jai Courtney command the gargoyle order with the square-jawed earnestness you would expect of humanity’s defenders. Would that the day had never dawned when I referred to Eowyn as square-jawed in any context.

So it’s established that I, Frankenstein has loads of I, er, eye candy. But does it have anything else?

There is a bit of meaningful soul-searching on the part of Adam, and surprisingly these aspects of the story do have a bit of sensitivity to them. Not a whole lot of time is spent on it and it’s generally just skimmed over, but there’s just enough definition for his character to matter.

The down side is that there’s really nothing we haven’t seen before ... elements of the Underworld films, a “demonic master plan” that seems cribbed from Van Helsing (another CGI-fest), right down to the improbable coincidences that plague movies of the genre (like the gargoyles’ base of operations and the site of the demons’ master plan being in the same city ... and neither side did diddly-squat about it?). So you know what’s in store for you here.

Still, as early-in-the-year releases of fantasy/horror movies go, I, Frankenstein is more watchable and bearable than others – for example, that exterminating-angels flick Legion. It won’t leave you with a bad taste in the mouth, thereby eliminating the feeling that you need to gargoyle afterward. Somebody stop me, please!

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