Film Review: I, Frankenstein (M15+) (USA, 2014)

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The reviews have been so particularly harsh for I, Frankenstein that you would expect to actually enjoy the film; having your standards dropped so low that surely semi-competent performances by Aaron Eckhart; and Bill Nighy could be enough to derive at least some satisfaction. Right? Wrong.

The film is as unimpressive as you’ve probably already heard, bringing with it an almost laughable premise and playing out in the same vein as films like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but somehow taking itself a bit more seriously; which is a mistake.

This Gothic action-fantasy film is director Stuart Beattie’s vision adapted from a comic book by Kevin Grevioux – creator of the Underworld franchise – and looks impressive enough at times to at least speak highly for the set designers. However, design remains the film’s only saving grace as the viewer is treated to the long haul of an incoherent ‘demons versus gargoyles’ storyline which manages to rope in a warped Frankenstein’s monster (Eckhart) – who is given the simple, almost comical, name ‘Adam’ by the maternal Gargoyle queen Leonore (Miranda Otto).

Adam murdered his creator, Victor Frankenstein, some time before being embroiled in this war, purely out of revenge. Adam just so happens to be highly skilled at killing demons and is the key for both sides to find Frankenstein’s original journal; hence, Eckhart’s fairly stoic character gets to play the unwillingly crucial element to a battle between good and evil – or rather, blue light and orange light, as characters emit a respective glow of either embers or gems when they are killed.

Performances here are severely lacking in substance to the point where I’d be surprised if anyone cared what happens to anyone by the film’s end. Our protagonist is even given a semi-love interest in bemused scientist Terra ( Yvonne Strahovski). The Sydney-born beauty hasn’t really improved from the last two seasons of Dexte, delivering a fairly lifeless performance even when considering how terrible a script she was given.

The only actor given a half-decent role is Nighy as he plays demon prince and main antagonist Naberius, but even the veteran actor falls short here, lost among messy battle scenes and ridiculously cheesy dialogue. His character is driven by the desire to study Adam and Frankenstein’s journal so he can give life to an army of soulless vessels which are vulnerable to demon possession. But who is to say they will be soulless? Does that mean Frankenstein has no soul? The shallow exploration of this philosophical question is the heart of the film, and even that cannot ground it enough to engage viewers for long. 

Sitting through this film can be quite tedious when the scattered attempts at humour comes across as awkward, the few action scenes which actually look decent are over just when they start, and the acting consistently misses even the lowest of expectations. Perhaps the most line most telling of the entire movie and it’s quality is the very last line of the script, where Eckhart is forced to give a batman-like soliloquy in which he ends with the melodramatic and incredibly lame “I….Frankenstein.” Yes folks, the name of the movie is also the film’s closing line. How dramatic.

Aesthetically, the film isn’t all that bad, with nice lighting and brilliant design all throughout. However, you can’t judge a book by its cover, especially when the writing is as insipid and ridiculous as this.

Review Score: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)

I, Frankenstein is currently screening nation-wide