Title: I, Frankenstein
Director: Stuart Beattie
Writer: Stuart Beattie (based on I, Frankenstein by Kevin Grevioux)
Distributed By: Lionsgate
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Socratis Otto, Jai Courtney, Steve Mouzakis, Aden Young, and Kevin Grevioux
Release Date: January 24, 2014
MPAA: Rated PG-13
The comic I, Frankenstein presents a new spin on classic monsters, including Frankenstein’s Monster, the Invisible Man, Dracula, and others in a modern film noir setting. The Monster, for example, has evolved and now acts as a private investigator. Dracula, meanwhile, is a crime-lord, and the Invisible Man is a secret operative.
The movie apparently acts as a prequel to the comic, where Victor Frankenstein’s monstrous creation (Aaron Eckhart), now named Adam, gets involved in a war between gargoyles and demons. It’s explained that at some point during the eternal war between angels and demons, the archangel Michael created gargoyles as soldiers to take over the fighting and then apparently left Earth never to return. The Prince of Demons (Bill Nighy) comes up with a plan to harvest human corpses as empty shells to bring back his army of fallen demons and the secret of Adam’s creation is the key to his master plan.
I, Frankenstein is a B-Movie at its core, and if you watch it with that in mind, you might have a decent time. If you watch this movie expecting Oscar-worthy performances from its stars Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, and Miranda Otto (of which they’re perfectly capable) you’ll hate this film. If you watch while hoping for preposterous dialogue delivered through corny line-readings then you might have a somewhat enjoyable experience. This movie feels like a cross between recent B-movie sci-fi/fantasy flicks like Underworld and Van Helsing, yet not as entertaining as either of those.
Speaking of Underworld, this new flick shares the same producers and both stories were created by Kevin Grevioux. Grevioux also appears in both films playing the big burly henchman on one of the teams of monsters (a werewolf in Underworld and a demon in I, Frankenstein). The comic book was also published by Grevioux’s company Darkstorm Studios. One might start getting the idea that he only comes up with these stories for the sole purpose of showing up in the mediocre film.
The acting is all over the place with this movie. Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings), playing the Queen of the Gargoyles, seems to be taking her role too seriously, which luckily brings a possibly unintentional element of sincerity to what would otherwise be a laughable film. Aaron Eckhart is over-acting in an entertaining way, presenting a brooding melodramatic hero that delivers terrible lines with much-needed enthusiasm, all while showing us that he can copy Christian Bale’s growling Batman voice. Speaking of Batman, Eckhart even has the unfortunate task of delivering a short but terrible end-movie monologue that forcibly reminds viewers of the title of the film in the same melodramatic fashion of The Dark Knight.
Most of the rest of the supporting cast falls in between these two categories, either taking the film too seriously or chewing the scenery with melodramatic performances. The two worst offenders are Bill Nighy and Jai Courtney. Bill, as the demon prince Naberius, seems to know how mediocre the film is and essentially sleep-walks through his role. Though, that could also be an intentional acting decision, playing a character who has grown bored with living for millennia, but that would giving his performance more credit than its worth. Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard), the Gargoyle Queen’s right-hand-man, proves once again that he can’t act his way out of a paper bag.
With elements ranging from mediocre to terrible, this film doesn’t have much going for it by way of redeeming qualities, though surprisingly it does have a few. The visual effects are nice enough and fun to look at. Demons explode in Hellfire as they die, and Gargoyles dissolve in to beams of light that rise toward Heaven. Demons reveal their true nature with a nice combination of CGI and prosthetic make-up, with flames burning away their flesh to expose a monstrous visage achieved through practical effects. It’s all rather well done. But the movie really shines, and seems to have blown most of its miniscule budget, is on the effects for the Gargoyles. These CGI creatures are full of detail and are animated with a real heft, and really give the impression of living stone.
The film’s score, composed by Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil (Cloud Atlas and Killer Elite), is one of the few high points of this movie. It rises above the monotony of what could have been a very generic action-flick score and actually presents an intense, emotional, and engrossing companion to the film, which happens to be far better than it deserves.
Despite those more praise-worthy aspects of the film, most of the movie, from the sets to the execution comes across as pretty generic. Like its namesake, this film is a hodgepodge of other films that came before it, and much like its namesake this film is an unfortunately lifeless product in need of a serious infusion of energy. One can’t help but think that if I, Frankenstein had decided not to go the route of generic “chosen one” storyline and had instead followed the monster-noir feel of the actual comic, this could have been a more unique and captivating outing.
One final complaint should be leveled at this films inability to follow its own logic. At the beginning of the film, the gargoyles capture Adam because he attacks a demon in full view of a human, and their conflict is apparently a “secret war”, yet throughout the rest of the film they fly though the city streets engaging in open combat while crashing through buildings without any concern for possibly being spotted by random human bystanders. Also, its specifically stated that demons can only be killed by special weapons inscribed with consecrated symbols, yet at one point Adam kills a demon simply by carving one of the symbols into its chest. Little things like that are easily avoided and simply irritating.
(Side note: One other positive thing I can say about this movie – it gives me hope that a live-action movie based on Disney’s Gargoyles would look really cool!)
From a few good scenes, including Aaron Eckhart jumping off of a car to punch a Gargoyle mid-air, some rather enjoyable sequences full of that melodramatic B-movie adventure feel, some entertaining action scenes, and pretty decent special effects, to some flashbacks that happen to be better than the rest of the movie, this movie isn’t terrible, but it isn’t really good either. I, Frankenstein is mostly disappointing and below average at best, earning a score of 4 out of 10.