Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller
Director: Stuart Beattie
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Socratis Otto, Jai Courtney, Kevin Grevioux
Release Date: January 25th, 2014
Aaron Eckhart is a fine actor who has brought gravitas to many of his films. From the bloated Battle Los Angeles (2008) to the underrated Olympus has Fallen (2013), he has enhanced pictures with his onscreen charisma and steadfast attitude. Eckhart has brought that same power and the same gravitas to his newest film I, Frankenstein but like with Battle, his presence isn’t enough to overcome this feature’s myriad failings.
Eckhart stars as the title character, the elaborate creation of the insane Doctor Victor Frankenstein (Aden Young). “I was cast into being,” the main character notes in a voice-over, before adding that Victor eventually turned his back and tried to kill him. Frankenstein avenges the betrayal by murdering Victor’s wife and watching Victor freeze to death.
Victor’s creation eventually becomes embroiled in an age-old battle between the hunted gargoyles— led by the humane Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) — and the manipulative demons. The demons are searching for Frankenstein, who they believe can help them raise their dead.
The relationship between Leonore, the leader who seeks to protect Frankenstein from his inner demons and the external ones, and Eckhart’s “monster” is the most intriguing one in the film but the dialogue only hints at its potential. When the gargoyles capture Frankenstein, the Queen calls him Adam, allowing him to see his potential as a valuable being. Later, when she notes why she protects him, she says that she saw in him “not a soul, but the potential for one.” Her humanity and belief that life is sacred is a powerful trait, but it’s unfortunately glossed over during the features’ by-the-books final third.
Bill Nighy has a supporting role here as Naberius, the head of the demons. However, even his attempts at scenery-chewing prove indecent. Yvonne Strahovski also appears as a scientist, who doesn’t realize she’s working for a demon though her character doesn’t seem that surprised when she finds out (sounds like a scene from Horrible Bosses). Inevitably, the worlds between the demons, gargoyles and the scarcely-seen humans collide in a grand battle where Frankenstein has to choose who his true friends are.
There are hints of a good film here under the superficial script and the demon masks that seem to have been borrowed from the set of Super Mario Bros. (1993). The story’s serious tone and Eckhart’s noble performance elevate it beyond other supernatural films like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Additionally, both the character of Leonore and some of the elaborate visual effects– including a wondrous shot of dead demons waiting to be awakened– feel like they belong in a better film.
But overall, none of these “alive” elements can make up for this “dead” feature’s failures. Unlike some terrible films that offer no shot of redemption, I, Frankenstein stands out as one that could’ve worked with a better script and stronger supporting characters.
Adam seems to have life here but pretty much everything surrounding him lacks a pulse. Ironic, isn’t it?
Review by: John Hanlon