I can just imagine what the pitch meeting for I, Frankenstein was like…It was probably a lot like, if not identical to, the pitch about a long feuding history between vampires and werewolves that have taken over the city’s underworld, with a love story thrown in there just for fun. Alas, from the producers of Underworld, with some of the same actors in Underworld, and with the exact same narrative of Underworld , comes…not Underworld, but I, Frankenstein. If you’re confused, stay with me.
I’m not sure if Lakeshore Entertainment thinks it’s audience is completely idiotic, but if they think ten years is enough time to put out the exact same movie, just reversing the gender of it’s hero, without anyone noticing, then they really need to get a new research and marketing managing team assembled. I’m not sure what to make of I, Frankenstein; whether its a directly revived spin-off of Underworld, or a gender-reversed narrative film gimmick, or an experiment for Hollywood to see how much of the same story they can visit over and over and still make a profit with, but the film is an exact carbon copy of writer’s Kevin Grevioux’s first writing credit.
The question as to why then becomes almost as clichéd and predictable as the answer, and goes back to Hollywood’s hidden yet not-so-secret January agenda, which also serves as this January film’s underlining motive–money. Underworld was a mild box office success almost making $100 million worldwide with a modest $20 million budget. But the series spawned numerous sequels (sometimes without Beckinsale) hauling in a respectable $455 million total worldwide on a $175 million budget overall, which isn’t bad for an unexpected tentpole franchise. Replace the aforementioned two species with gargoyles and demons, switch a leathered up Kate Beckinsale for a stitched up Aaron Eckhart with a hoodie and some eyeliner, and Bill Nighy for…well, Bill Nighy, and you have a hopeful, stylized and lame rehash of a beloved 2002 film.
The thing about the film is, in terms of atmospheric tone and stylized action, it delivers in a way that can only be expected of a January film. The action is large, epic and entertaining; the acting isn’t that bad considering, and the inconsistencies within the film are somewhat consistent. One minute, a demon is travelling at sonic speed and another he is running just like the rest of us humans, and it happens throughout the whole film. So the film can be applauded for being real with itself, but, in a season where originality is everything and creativity is king, the film never has a spark or stroke of imagination anywhere, which gives the film its biggest level of horror.
Caught in-between two sides of an opposing world, Victor Frankenstein’s monster (Eckhart) must live outcasted in a world where his entire world is a giant question mark. In a rare case where art imitates life, Eckhart has also been playing both sides of the feud between the independent side of Hollywood, as well as the mainstream side. One thing is for sure, you got to feel sorry for Mr. Eckhart. An actor who has worked so hard in his career and landed/delivered excellent roles throughout with Thank You For Smoking, Rabbit Hole, The Rum Diary and The Dark Knight, unfortunately, hasn’t been able to establish himself as a bonafide leading man and movie star with some serious star power and household credibility.
The film is flooded with up-and-coming action stars trying to make a name for themselves. From Miranda Otto, the princess of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to Jai Courtney, the next generation’s John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard, to Socratis Otto, the film will undoubtedly serve as a high-profile highlight in the resumés of many of these young actors. While the veteran actors, namely Bill Nighy, who delivers as if his eyes were closed and appears on screen fidgety, with a ‘been there, done that attitude’ can surely do without the inclusion of this film on his filmography. Nonetheless, a man’s got to eat and his career as a whole will never be discredited for a role he has already played before, even if it is with half the gusto.
Unfortunately the film never revives anything new and exciting to the genre or January films in general. Recycling old themes, plots and characters from films that appeared less than a decade ago, its a surprise that pop culture and mass media hasn’t already written this film off as a stitched up mess. In what was surely an unintentional use of dialogue, Otto’s character describes what it was like looking into the eyes of the monster for the first time, “not with a soul, but the potential for one”. I, Frankenstein can rest assured that it will live on as a plain example of Hollywood’s success at ripping the soul from classic English literature pieces, and instead of finding potential, adding the only thing it knows how, an “I”; an “I” for inconsideration for its source text and an overwhelming glossy and conceded Hollywood presence.
Night Film Reviews: 4 out of 10 Stars.
Had enough with January releases? Or happy to take a break with heavy awards-driven dramas? Is I, Frankenstein right up your alley or a quickly put together disaster? Leave your comments and thoughts below.