If Mary Shelley were alive today she would cry at the sight of I, Frankenstein, the latest movie that wrongly tries to make an action hero of a classic universal monster. Thankfully, though, she is dead, so turning over in her grave is the most we can expect to see from her.
Adapted from a graphic novel of the same name by its author Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie, I, Frankenstein casts Aaron Eckhart (“Olympus Has Fallen”) as Frankenstein’s monster who goes by the name Adam and is sporting a stitched up hardcore, chiseled body. It’s a damn good thing he keeps himself in such good shape too because he is the key between a centuries long war between demons and gargoyles. Cool concept, I suppose, but that’s about as good as it gets.
Along with Aaron for this ride into gothic inspired CGI overload is Miranda Otto (“What Lies Beneath”) as the queen of the gargoyle clan, Leonore and Bill Nighy (“Wrath of the Titans”) — who is no stranger to getting sucked into concoctions dreamed up by Grevioux (the “Underworld” series) — as the king of the demon clan, Naberius. Why they’ve been fighting for so long is of little consequence (and little time is actually spent explaining it to the audience), it’s just kinda cool to watch these imaginative creatures do battle to the death that result in explosions of blue rays for the gargoyles and red flames for the demons like it was to see vampires and werewolves viciously tear each other apart.
21st century advances in science will take the immortal’s battle to heights, however, as Naberius, with the help of an easy-on-the-eyes doctor (Yvonne Strahovski, “The Guilt Trip”), has made great strides in the field of reanimating the dead. Dead rodents that is. But with the monster, err, I mean Adam, in his grasp, he can finally raise that army of the dead he’s been secretly stashing in the basement and get that pesky apocalypse thingy started.
In paint by numbers fashion, I, Frankenstein plods towards the inevitable showdown between the factions of good, evil, and the monster-guy who is neither. And unfortunately, in this role that is far beneath his abilities, Eckhart is unconvincing and his attempt to bring it all together falls as flat as the dialogue that he’s been asked to read. His efforts (and I believe he is actually trying) aren’t helped much that Otto and Nighy, as the other key players, are on auto-pilot throughout, and Strahovski’s character is perhaps the dumbest smart person ever written.
The film is further disserviced by its lackluster visual effects — the gargoyles don’t look real nor do they move realistically (and yes, I know they are made of stone) — and a PG-13 rating that takes most of the “oomph” from what could have been intense battles. I didn’t take the opportunity to watch the movie in 3D, so I can’t say whether it is worth the investment (it rarely is), but I’d have to imagine it would further muddle an already darkened palette.
All is not lost on I, Frankenstein, though — there are lessons to be learned. For one, not every classic monster or fable needs to be made over in such a way; staying true to the original form should not be instantly discounted. And while other actors have succeeded in transforming themselves into the fantasy action mold, it seems Aaron Eckhart isn’t going to be one of them.