i, frankenstein review
© Entertainment Film Distributors

I, Frankenstein

2014
Dir: Stuart Beattie 

Monstrosity

I, Frankenstein has a brazen goal. To stop pedants everywhere correcting others when they label the creature in Mary Shelley’s seminal gothic fiction as ‘Frankenstein’. “Actually, I think you’ll find it’s the scientist who’s called Frankenstein, not his creation. The creature is simply ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, or just, ‘The Monster’”, they cry. Well, not any more. This has obviously been deemed too confusing for the millennial generation, so a film that finally consolidates the creature itself as ‘Frankenstein’ has been shat into the mainstream. It nails its manifesto to the mast from the off with the very title I, Frankenstein. And for the eradication of any doubt, it documents the demise of the doctor in the opening sequence, then follows his damned ‘offspring’ as he winds his way towards that most radical of humanising processes; a haircut.

Of course, this is a souped-up superhero reboot of Frankenstein’s Monster, sorry, I mean The Monster, I mean Frankenst… It’s based on a graphic novel, natch. He is not any more some hulking amalgam of ill-fitting body parts and the damaged brain of his creator’s mentor. Now he is a buff, lithe, attractive superhuman with speed, agility, deftness with a weapon, the trench coat and fingerless gloves of the Goth, but, most importantly, a rippling six-pack.

It’s within an establishing trend of comic-book-isation of horror iconography. It follows the tedious Hugh Jackman vehicle Van Helsing (2004). That grey-green CGI sludge-fest redrew the hero of parallel literary classic, ‘Dracula’. It binned the academic grace of the character as portrayed by Cushing, Olivier and Hopkins. Instead, it ‘upgraded’ him to a buff, lithe, attractive superhuman with speed, agility, deftness with a weapon, the trench coat and fingerless gloves of the Goth, but, most importantly, a rippling six-pack. Okay, I need to check on the fingerless gloves. I just checked and they were fully fingered. My bad.

Aaron Eckhart (an actor insisting on monopolising as many of the barrel-scraping dregs of recent releases as he can, witness London Has Fallen (2016)) plays Frankenstein’s Monster, sorry, I mean The Monster, I mean Franken… as a moody loner with a chip on his shoulder ‘cause he has no roof over his head, no direction in life, and no, er, …soul? The hideous scars of his brutal bio-construction are now handsome blemishes of butch masculinity, just one step up from the man make-up of his two-day old stubble. He gets drawn into an epic battle between gargoyles and demons, a battle that’s raged for centuries, fought just beyond the realm of mortal man’s awareness, of course. As the first artificially created ‘human’, he is the most valuable commodity to both warring factions, the secrets of his creation holding the key to eternal life itself. Or something.

Staggeringly, Bill Nighy turns up as this fatuous fantasy’s dark prince. His sweeping entrance does offer brief hope. An actor of his calibre will surely relish playing such an over-the-top pantomime villain, stuffing the required level of tongue into cheeks everywhere. But any optimism is short-lived, as he delivers one predictable line after another, displaying none of the wit or mischief he’s proven he has at his disposal in more deserving projects. Pretty much all of the script is exposition, as such a misplaced mash-up of a premise has to be explained pretty damn quickly, so that the spectacularly lumpen battle between good and evil can get underway. Down alleys, in abandoned warehouses, only at night obvs, anywhere that has the requisite amount of peeling wallpaper. A laughably ridiculous degree of peeling wallpaper, in fact. Like the apocalypse will be heralded by a terrifying shortage of adhesive paste. The effects are as gloopy and cartoonish as the set-up, and when demons reveal themselves from behind their human facades, they helpfully don a demonic rubber mask, just so we can keep up with who’s who. Even Prince Nighy. Thanks Bill.

This is an inappropriately high octane, flat-out unnecessary concoction of the after-story of Frankenstein’s Monster, sorry, I mean The Monster, no, I mean Fr… oh stop it. It’s a needless reanimation of a character from one genre plonked unceremoniously into the body of another. Aye, I, Frankenstein is an abomination.

★ ½

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