Where to even start with this film. Akin to Frankenstein’s monster, this film is a grotesque mishmash of elements that really don’t fit well together. As with last year’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (dir.: Wirkola), screenwriter-turned-director Stuart Beattie’s modern fantasy romp I, Frankenstein has all the whirlwind action sequences and magical visuals you’d expect from a foray into this genre but it ultimately just feels hollow and all too ludicrous.
What with a brooding Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) in the leading role as the scar-ridden monster of lore, and supporting actors Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) as Leonore, the gargoyle Queen – yes, you read that right – and Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean) twitching away as the villainous Dark Prince Naberious, there was some pretty solid casting here that gave me a glimmer of hope for this film despite its far-fetched plot…but unfortunately even this famous trio could not suture this film together.
With the audience informed of the entire plot of the original Frankenstein within two minutes flat via one unremarkable prologue, we were free to focus on the worrisome reality of modern day warfare between ancient benevolent gargoyles and evil, orc-ish demons. Yep. Frankenstein’s creation, dubbed ‘Adam’, now sporting a contemporary haircut and outfit, is caught up in the middle of the feuding, the gargoyles wanting to preserve and protect the reanimation science that created him, whereas the demons want to put it to use, creating the lonely Adam a companion or two [hundred] in the process… Throw in a romantic interest in loyalty-torn lab scientist, Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) and you have one very busy film.
The result is a strange film with an unrelenting pace and numerous laughably wooden dialogue sequences as the audience laboriously learns of both the gargoyles and demons, when really just one supernatural force to face off against Adam was all the film needed. Instead, we have the titular protagonist running back and forth in no-man’s land, occasionally stabbing and jabbing friends and foes on both sides before he finally figures out who he wants to side with. With the demons humorously over-the-top evil, seemingly lacking in any common sense and the gargoyles similarly blinded by their need to battle, the final clash between the two is utterly predictable and a little anticlimactic. I was looking forward to some more fiery ferocity from gargoylian Miranda Ottoman after decapitating a nazgul in Return of the King, but I, Frankenstein rendered her too lacking in any kind of memorable personality, instead presenting her as one graceful yet fragile priestess, her true power being the complete and utter reverence and loyalty she inspires from her stony followers.
All in all, I, Frankenstein just had too much going on all at once to properly delve into any of the plot devices in much detail. What limited information that was granted to viewers was delivered so clunkily that it elicited snorts and giggles from us – twisting awkwardly serious scenes into unintentional comedy. Protagonist Adam didn’t inspire much, if any, empathy from the audience instead remaining scarred and detached despite dominating most scenes. The entire film simply felt stunted. Watch this film for the fight sequences and the visual beauty of shape-shifting gargoyles and flumes of flaming demons. Don’t watch it if you’re expecting any kind of coherent story or real character interaction and development! Don’t rush to the cinema to see this one, folks.
I, Frankenstein is one to – along with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – just abandon on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust and never to be spoken of again.