Originally screened in 2013, I Frankenstein applies the formula successfully used for the Underworld franchise, but this time the producers, writers, and even the actors achieve mixed results. Using a similar color scheme, structure and editing approaches, and reliable actors such as Bill Nighy, I Frankenstein pits gargoyles against demons, with none other than Frankenstein’s monster in the middle. The movie is pure popcorn fodder, enjoyable for its CGI-driven monsters and imagined world, as well as some good action sequences. The writers even manage to throw in some clever ideas, but overall the movie is simply too much like the Underworld franchise that preceded it. I Frankenstein simply suffers too much from the style of another franchise, making it feel like that uncle at Thanksgiving dinner that no one really wants to be around.
The story centers on Frankenstein’s monster, Adam (Aaron Eckhart). The monster is an enigma amongst humanity, principally because it possesses no soul. Moreover, the creature, despite its human appearance, is immortal and possesses superhuman abilities. The monster is much sought after by a group of demons led by Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy). Naberius has been trying to reanimate the dead. Once brought to life, the once-dead humans lack a soul—it is then possible for demons to inhabit these human bodies and thus escape from hell. Doing the science behind this diabolical plot is Terra (Yvonne Strahovski), who has only been partially successful in her reanimation experiments.
Standing in Prince Naberius’ way is Leonore (Miranda Otto), a gargoyle queen whose gargoyle army has been battling demons since the beginning of time. The gargoyles are one step below the angels and take their orders from God Himself. The demons of course take their cues from Old Scratch.
The bulk of the movie concerns the demons attempting to catch Adam or steal from him Frankenstein’s diary, which holds the key to successful reanimation. As both factions battle for possession of the monster, Adam himself must come to terms with being a creature without a soul. As battle after battle ensues, Adam begins to realize his worth, particularly when it comes to his role as protector of humanity (rather than tormentor), at last discovering that indeed he does have a soul after all.
Based on characters originally created by Mary Shelley, I Frankenstein takes its plot and source material from Kevin Grevioux, whose Darkstorm Studios graphic novel used a Frankenstein monster that looked more like the Karloff creature. Standing on its own, I Frankenstein is not too bad a movie. Director and screenwriter Stuart Beattie does a good job with the movie (there’s a little too much exposition through character at the beginning, but otherwise the movie moves along well), the story is pretty good, and the actors bring their “A” game to what amounts to a “B” movie.
The principal problem with I Frankenstein is that it resembles too much the Underworld franchise. Obviously, the storylines are much too similar. Instead of vampires and werewolves fighting it out, there are gargoyles and demons. Rather than having a vampire/werewolf hybrid, there is the Frankenstein monster, which both factions covet.
Although the similar storylines could be overlooked, the movie compounds the issue further by using similar filmmaking techniques. Thus, I, Frankenstein uses similar coloring and film tone, architecture, and editorial approaches. The costumes also pay homage to the Underworld franchise, mixing Gothic with chic. Even Bill Nighy hits similar notes in his performance—there’s little difference between his vampire and demon, although I personally found his vampire performance to be much more menacing.
Also worth mentioning are some of the battles themselves. Once again, martial arts play a prevalent role in the combat sequences, and once again escrima seems to be the art of choice, particularly for the Frankenstein monster. I personally have grown weary of the same striking patterns used in these films, particularly the ever-present redondos and diagonal strikes. This is a personal pet peeve, however, so perhaps it should be mentioned only in passing.
I, Frankenstein is a real popcorn muncher, a movie designed to easily pass the time at least once. I would say it’s not worth watching a second time, but most viewers should have a good time the first go around listening to overwrought dialogue and stunning action sequences with great CGI special effects.