As most people can probably tell you, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is one of the great gothic novels of the 19th century. It’s a story that deals with obsession and a number of existential questions that make it both chilling and complex. There have been a few decent attempts to bring Frankenstein’s creature to the screen, including the classic Karloff films “Frankenstein” and “The Bride of Frankenstein,” in addition to an adaptation from the mid-90s in which Robert De Niro plays the titular creation. As we come up to the present day, one can only begin to imagine what Shelley would think if she were to see what’s been done to her beloved character.
“I, Frankenstein” picks up where the novel left off, with Frankenstein’s creature (Aaron Eckhart) bringing the body of his father to his family cemetery. After he finishes the burial, he is attacked by a group of demons for an unknown reason and is subsequently rescued by members of the Gargoyle Order, who are under the command of Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto). She explains to Adam, as the creature comes to be known, that there is an ongoing war between gargoyles and demons. She tries to enlist his help, but he has no interest in joining in the fight. However, after he leaves their company, he finds that he is followed by demons wherever he goes, causing him to turn the tables and hunt them instead.
This goes on for over 200 years until he is captured and brought before Leonore once more. Her decision to keep him locked up for not only his own safety, but also the safety of humanity, results in a direct assault on the Order’s headquarters by the demons, who are under the command of Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy). Adam soon discovers that, with the help of a human scientist (Yvonne Strahovski), the demons hope to resurrect the “descended” souls of their brethren into dead bodies and reanimate them, but first, they must discover how the process works through either Adam himself or his father’s diary. If Naberius should be successful, it would be the end of mankind, something that Adam and the Order are not about to let happen.
“I, Frankenstein” is a film best described using almost the exact same words I used for “The Legend of Hercules.” Throughout this entire film, there’s not one thing to grab the audience’s attention, nothing to engage their interest as this loud, ugly mess plays out on screen. Once more, we have a thread of a plot (war between gargoyles and demons) that acts as nothing but a flimsy foundation so that the filmmakers can throw in a multitude of tedious fights. In fact, the only things going for it are the performances of Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy, but even their great talents can’t come close to saving this material. It’s not that such a premise couldn’t work. Having Frankenstein’s creature in a modern setting could make for an engaging idea if the story was well thought out, but with “I, Frankenstein,” it’s as though screenwriter/director Stuart Beattie didn’t put any thought into it whatsoever. It appears as though he was going for something along the lines of a fun and entertaining blockbuster, but seeing as how the film is neither fun nor entertaining, all he ends up delivering is a dull and monotonous dud that no doubt has Shelley rolling over in her grave.
“I, Frankenstein” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of average quality. The picture remains decently sharp throughout, but the entire production design of the film is so drab that it becomes hard to tell if the image is off or if it’s just how the film is supposed to look. Either way, there are no issues to report, leading you to be able to see everything clearly enough. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is satisfactory as well, with all the dialogue and battle noises coming through crystal clear. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a loud film, so it’s nice not to have to make an adjustment for once in regards to the volume. Overall, it’s hard to say that either area is particularly great, but at the very least, you get a fine experience.
Audio Commentary by Co-Writer/Director Stuart Beattie: Beattie’s commentary track is one of those that mainly focuses on his describing what’s happening on screen, in addition to telling us where everything was filmed, so there’s not really a whole lot to learn about the film here. You would think that the director would have a lot of interesting things to say about the film given that he had to oversee the entire project, but perhaps even he realized that there just wasn’t really anything interesting about it at all.
Audio Commentary by Filmmakers Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, James McQuaide, and Kevin Grevioux: This commentary track, featuring four of the producers, one of which is the author of the original graphic novel, is a little better in that they discuss various elements of the film. While it still doesn’t go into much depth in particular, you’re more likely to learn something about the film from it than the other track.
Creating a Monster: A 13-minute featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the making of the film. It’s a kind of general “Making of” that features interviews with mainly the crew, who take you through what it was like to bring the film together. While it too doesn’t go into much depth, it still makes for an intriguing watch.
Frankenstein’s Creatures: A 14-minute featurette that delves into the various characters through interviews with cast and crew, including a look at how the demons were brought to life. I found this to be the most worthwhile special feature on the disc, especially because it gives you insights on the characters from the actors themselves, while also going through many of the designs.
“I, Frankenstein” is a failed attempt to bring a classic literary character into contemporary times. The sad part of it all is that these filmmakers should have easily seen that this wouldn’t have made for an engaging film throughout any of its various stages simply because there’s nothing to it: No character development (as expected), no gripping storyline, and no reason for the viewer to give it a second glance. Even the most avid action junkies would have a hard time not rolling their eyes at the blandness of it all. Just like with “The Legend of Hercules,” it becomes no surprise that this was tossed into the dreaded January dumping ground.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four, The Legend of Hercules, Dead Shadows, Sorcerer, Copperhead, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Best of Bogart Collection, Beneath, American Hustle, Kill Your Darlings, The Slumber Party Massacre, Inside Llewyn Davis, In Fear, Oldboy (2013), Cold Comes the Night, Gravity
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