I, Frankenstein: Film Review

The monster's back, and he's ripped.

Mary Shelley's immortal literary character is resurrected yet again to fight evil demons in this "Underworld"-style saga.

Mary Shelley’s durable literary creation has survived through hundreds of years and endless screen incarnations, and there’s no doubt he’ll survive I, Frankenstein as well. Making the creature the pawn in an epic battle between vampires and werewolves — excuse me, demons and gargoyles -- this latest effort, from the creators of the Underworld series, is mainly notable for the fact that its titular character, as played by Aaron Eckhart, is really, really ripped. If People magazine had existed in the 19th century, he surely would have been feted as the sexiest undead man alive.

Taking up right where Shelley’s classic novel left off, with the monster burying his creator, the story fast-forwards 200 years to the present day. The creature, here dubbed Adam, finds himself the object of attention from opposing forces of evil demons and benevolent gargoyles. It seems that the former, led by the dapperly dressed, tea-drinking Naberius (Bill Nighy, obviously employing the “one for me, one for them” formula adopted by esteemed actors who go slumming), are intent on procuring Dr. Frankenstein’s journal to learn the secret of creating an army of zombies from the human corpses they’ve been presumably collecting.

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Meanwhile, the gargoyles, led by the Glinda-like Leonore (Miranda Otto, see above), desperately attempt to keep Adam from the demons’ clutches in an effort to save mankind. It hardly seems worth the effort, since the latter are barely represented onscreen.

The film -- alternating between endless exchanges of exposition that would seem talky even for a Sunday morning chat show and explosively fiery 3D CGI set pieces rendered in the usual frenetic video game style, set to a bombastic music score -- manages to be tedious in both departments. Director-screenwriter Stuart Beattie, adapting the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, employs a strictly humorless, gothic approach to the material that makes one long for the satirical touches of James Whale, let alone Mel Brooks.

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Both the demons and the gargoyles are depicted in human form when not actually called into action, with the former dressed in sharp black Matrix-style suits and the latter in more rustic garb that shows off their impressive biceps, especially as sported by Gideon (Jai Courtney of A Good Day to Die Hard), Leonore’s petulant second-in-command.

Eckhart’s glowering monster, prone to bouts of self-pity while uttering such lines as “I go my own way” and “I’ve never had to thank a human for anything before,” cuts a suitably impressive action hero. Sporting a few facial scars that barely diminish his chiseled features, Adam, who obviously steers well clear of carbs, is capable of turning both male and female heads while sauntering through a trendy nightspot.

He also garners an appreciative double take from Naberius’ chief scientist, comely electrophysicist Terra (Yvonne Strahovski of Dexter), when he bares his impressively sculpted torso. Assigned by her boss with the task of figuring out how to reanimate life as part of a surprisingly skimpy two-person team, she nonetheless soon forms an alliance with Adam.

Ending with Adam astride a massive Gothic cathedral posing in Dark Knight style while promising in voiceover to dedicate himself to fighting the demons that threaten to obliterate mankind, I, Frankenstein is clearly priming for a franchise. Poor Mary Shelley is no doubt spinning in her grave. 

Production: Lakeshore Entertainment, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Hopscotch Features, Lionsgate
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Kevin Grevioux, Caitlin Stasey, Mahesh Jadu
Director-screenwriter: Stuart Beattie
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, Andrew Mason, Sidney Kimmel
Executive producers: Troy Lum, Eric Reid, David Kern, James McQuade, Bruce Toll, Jim Tauber, Matt Berenson, Kevin Grevioux
Director of photography: Ross Emery
Production designer: Michelle McGahey
Costume designer: Cappi Ireland
Editor: Marcus D’Arcy
Composers: Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil
Rated PG-13, 92 minutes