‘As the eternal battle rages on, the more eternal the whole thing feels‘ – Sean O’Connor reviews I, Frankenstein.
Arriving in the cinematic graveyard that is January, the poster for the ponderous I, Frankenstein declares that it comes ‘From the Producers of Underworld’ – which should give you enough warning what to expect once the lights go down. Bearing a lot of the DNA of that humourless series, this clear attempt to kick start a new franchise briefly speeds through the original Mary Shelley story by way of a gloomy voiceover. We then learn, by solemn exposition, of an eternal war between demons and gargoyles (yes, really) for the fate of mankind. Aaron Eckhart’s eponymous soulless monster initially (and quite rightly) wants nothing to do with this nonsense, so he wanders the northern wilds for two centuries much like a dour Highlander immortal but is eventually drawn back into the fight.
What follows will be familiar to anyone who has watched any of the initially entertaining lycans versus vampire hokum that Kate Beckinsale & Co finally ran into the ground.
We get multiple climactic battle scenes which seem mainly to be there to show the fiery ‘descent’ of dead demons and the beatific light of gargoyles’ ‘ascent’ at their demise. To be fair, this is one of the things that the film does well – it looks great when presenting these clashes. Unfortunately this visual strength is not enough to sustain proceedings. Nor, unfortunately, is Bill Nighy who is admirably game playing pretty much the same role he has in previous outings. Here he is the demon-prince/corporate billionaire, Naberius who wants the secret to Adam’s immortality so that he may reanimate his army of undead. Rich as he is, he sees fit to employ only two scientists to unlock this secret, one of whom Yvonne Strahovski – young, pretty, blonde – plays what you might expect to be Eckhart’s love interest, or at least a point of contact for his humanity. The film has no interest in going down that route, as it continually wastes any opportunity to be anything less than somber.
So, Naberius’s hordes of demons – who dress like so many Agent Smiths by day – battle Miranda Otto’s outnumbered gargoyles, who dress like Game Of Thrones extras. Another film might have enjoyed the campiness of this just a little, but self-seriousness is all we get here. As the eternal battle rages on, the more eternal the whole thing feels.
It is so devoid of originality that when Eckhart declares at one that he is comprised of ”a dozen used parts from eight different corpses” you know just precisely what he means.
It is one thing to be bad, it’s another thing altogether not to have a soul.