Review: I, Frankenstein
I, Frankenstein seems to know exactly its place; short on depth and big on visuals, this modern-day action-adventure update on the classic tale barrels along fast and loud enough to hold your attention.
Yes, there is a melodramatic opening monologue and later a primer on something called the Gargoyle Order, and later still there is talk of souls ascending and descending and then maybe returning, but truly, for better and worse (and it’s mostly better), I, Frankenstein is the lively and tempermental male-version of Underworld (the films share writers, producers, and a villain in Bill Nighy).
In that thriller, it was a sexy female lead with unique powers that was thrust into a battle between werewolves and vampires. Here, the very-chiseled and well-coifed Aaron Eckhart, taking up a role where he isn’t tied up and letting another man fight his battles (ahem, Olympus Has Fallen), is the titular inventor’s creation, angry and tough.
Wandering the Earth alone for a couple hundred years, he has become an accomplished warrior of sorts, though he is short on talk and big on bashing things with sticks. Made from corpses and spare parts (some attractive ones, at that), Frankenstein’s monster (given the name Adam), finds himself amidst a centuries-old battle between Heaven and Hell, not unlike Underworld’s Selene.
It’s some majestically shape-shifting gargoyles from high above that battle the demons, who are often seen with slimy heads in suited bodies, never fully realized or enjoyed, from down below. Adam, as well as the book that describes in detail his creation ( a book that is decided to be hidden away instead of destroyed for reasons passing understanding) are coveted by demons looking to reproduce on Earth without souls, or something like that.
It’s the sort of unnecessarily complicated story that doesn’t require attention, but does offer a lot of head-scratching decisions. There are too more than enough familiar clichés, such as talk about ‘ending things here and now, or maybe tonight’ and the all too common scene of the doting woman tending to the wounds of a bruised hero – even though this monster is more or less immortal.
Regardless, it never gets tiresome to see the same few visual tricks unfold, namely the transformation between gargoyle form and human one, and the explosion of flames that results from killing a demon. As well, refreshing – at least as far as refreshing things can go in a modern-gothic action January releases – is our hero wielding batons and blades in lieu of axes and crossbows and all too common weapons of choice.
Eckhart, for his part, has the brooding stare down, as well as a whole lot of rage, something he helped illuminate in a recent interview. Billy Nighy, meanwhile, in a role he has done a lot now, is nicely eerie and sinister. Jai Courtney needs to appear more, never mind he is a one-dimensional gargoyle (not that anyone else isn’t). All around, though, there is something guiltily pleasurable, and not just a little ridiculous, about watching him and company fly around and make some spectacular fireworks in this fun, forgettable, Frankenstein fare.