“Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property. I was, besides, endued with a figure hideously deformed and loathsome; I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”
– The Monster, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelly .
This going to surprise absolutely no one, although it pains me to admit it because it makes me something of a hipster nerd; I actually do get a little fidgety when people say “Frankenstein” when what they mean is “Frankenstein’s Monster”, or just “The Monster”. I was therefore hugely relieved when Bill Nighy (although it’s probably fairer to credit director Stuart Beattie) got it right in his new film, I, Frankenstein. I mean, he only did it once, but still.
I, Frankenstein – adapted from the graphic novel of the same name which I haven’t read – picks up around where Shelly’s novel leaves us; seeking revenge for the murder of his wife by the monster (Aaron Eckhart), Dr. Victor Frankenstein (played for about five minutes by Aden Young) tracks him to the Arctic. Unfortunately, he hasn’t the capacity for survival as his creation, and succumbs to the cold. While burying his creator, he is set upon by demons, before being abruptly rescued by by gargoyles Ophir (Mahesh Jadu) and Keziah (Caitlin Stasey, who was also in Neighbours, and Beattie’s earlier adaptation of Tomorrow, When the War Began). Brought before their queen Lenore (Miranda Otto looking ephemeral), and commander, Gideon (Jai Courtney who leaps at the chance to be all, “grr. I don’t trust him. Grr. Have you seen my muscles?”), the creatures is named “Adam”, and…
You know, can I be honest? I sort of stopped trying to follow the backstory at this point and just enjoy the film. There’s something about an eternal war between the gargoyles, sent by the Archangel Michael to protect humanity, and the demons, lead by demon-prince Naberius, one of the original fallen angels who fell from heaven with Satan, before we’re rushed to the modern day where the monster has conveniently remained hidden through the ingenious use of a haircut and a hoodie and killing everyone who looked at him funny, which he’s very lucky with because they’re all demons. Except for one that turns out to be human, bringing him to the attention of Naberius, who has disguised himself as billionaire businessman Charles Wessex (Bill Nighy). Oh, I forgot to mention that the gargoyles gave him some blessed weapons.
“Wessex”, assisted by right-hand man Dekar (Kevin Grevioux, in a nice nod to him having written the graphic novel) and a scientific team of which Yvonne Strahovski as Terra Wade is the only one I can remember, is attempting to replicate Frankenstein’s work so that he can bring a huge army of demons to possess the soulless bodies and he can defeat the gargoyles and TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD.
Having not read the graphic novel, I can’t say whether or not this a fair adaptation, but there’s so much BACKSTORY and PLOT being yelled at you every twenty seconds that I’ve found trying to decide where to cut off my plot synopsis particularly difficult because there’s no point where some new thing isn’t being set up. Most conventional films follow the progression of a brief backstory, followed by an event or call to action which the protagonist must respond, and then the rest of the film is them dealing with it. If you’re good at it you can get NINE HOURS OVER THREE MOVIES OUT OF TRYING TO DESTROY A SINGLE RING (twelve if you’re watching the extended edition). This film is 92 minutes long, and did not.
I’m also not entirely sure if the version I saw was the final cut, so this comment may be redundant, but there are some bits of set dressing that didn’t seem like what you’d expect from the $65million dollar production. You’ll recognise them if they are still there. It’s almost worth including the city of Melbourne in the cast credits, because it was very obviously filmed here, and keen-eyed (ha!) viewers will notice a blink-and-you’d-miss-it (haha!) cameo by a Melbourne tram.
Some credit must be given to the cast, who all performed well with what they had, although I often felt that it was a waste of the potential of such amazing actors. Particularly Bill Nighy, who was only brought in to add some menacing gravitas and Britishness to Charles Wessex / Naberius (indeed, the actor describes him as a “nasty piece of work”). The person I went with told me that he didn’t realise it was Aaron Eckhart until about halfway through the film, so props go to makeup and costuming.
Look, my job is to be critical. If you accept it for what it is, it’s kinda fun. The special effects were pretty, and I like the Gothic CGI make-over they gave the city. Really my only problem is that it didn’t feel like a finished big budget / studio production. It was in 3D, which looked quite nice, and apparently they’re going to remaster it for IMAX, so that’s something.
I don’t know, maybe you’d like Van Helsing. Personally, I’m sticking with Young Frankenstein (no, it’s pronounced Fronkensteen).
- I, Frankenstein is directed by Stuart Beattie, and stars a cast including Aaron Eckhart, Aden Young, Mahesh Jadu, Caitlin Stasey, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, Bill Nighy, Kevin Grevioux and Yvonne Strahovski.
- Contemporary fantasy thriller
When / Where / How Much:
- I, Frankenstein opens in cinemas tomorrow (March 20). Prices vary.