Friday, January 24, 2014

I, Frankenstein

When I first saw a trailer for I, Frankenstein, I thought it looked like an Underworld-style supernatural action film with little to do with the Frankenstein story. I was right about the first, but not about the second. The plot does not stand up to close scrutiny, but it is at least a relatively logical extension of the story of Frankenstein's monster into a world with other supernatural creatures.

Like Underworld, I, Frankenstein's plot revolves around a hidden war between opposed supernatural creatures - in this case, gargoyles versus demons. The gargoyles are divinely-appointed guardians who watch over mankind, and the demons are evil because they are evil. That is about as deep as the metaphysics gets, but this is an action film.

The similarity to Underworld is not an accident. The original screenplay was written by Kevin Grevioux, who conceived the Underworld story and wrote at least part of all films in that franchise. Fun fact: he is also an actor, notably Raze in the first two Underworld films, and also features in a small but prominent part in I, Frankenstein. The movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name, also by Grevioux.

The part of Frankenstein's monster is played by Aaron Eckhart, a fine actor who spends most of his time in this film brooding or hitting things. He does well in the role, though I suspect he was cast in large part because his strong facial features lend themselves well to the monster's look. That look, while definitely monstrous, is somewhat puzzling - no explanation is offered for why Doctor Frankenstein felt it necessary to stitch in patterns that do not look structural.

Bill Nighy plays the villain, a deliciously evil demon prince. He is very good at that sort of thing. Miranda Otto plays the gargoyle queen. Her regal bearing and presence are quite convincing. Yvonne Strahovski actually gets second billing as a human scientist, and while she plays the part well, the part itself is not terribly interesting.

The visual effects are quite good for the most part. The fire effects produced by demons dying look particularly good, and the film would get a higher production rating were it not for the gargoyle skin and animation, which look cheap. The film only cost $65 million, and this is clearly one place where there was not enough budget.

The action sequences overall are quite satisfactory. The film has decent entertainment value, and it is nice to see some kali (stick fighting) on the big screen. This is hardly a must-see, but it is surprisingly good for a film which was delayed twice and then released in January.

Performance: 3/5
Plot: 2.5/5
Production: 3/5
Overall: 3/5
Bechdel: Fail
Reverse-Bechdel: Pass
Mako Mori: Fail

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