I, Frankenstein doesn’t necessarily look like a film you could particularly enjoy. The trailer is somewhat silly with its gargoyles and demons fighting each other, and Frankstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) bang in the middle of it. That is, perhaps unsurprisingly, roughly also the entire film’s story – which is perfectly okay.
Based on the eponymous graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, I, Frankenstein opens in 1795, as the monster is burying Victor Frankenstein and gets attacked by demons. Taken to the sacred ground of a cathedral in an unnamed city, he is informed by the gargoyle queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) that there is a war waging between good versus evil across the world. Their order is the side of light, while prince Naberius’ army is the darkness. Naberius wants to capture Adam, as the monster is now called, to figure out how to raise thousands of corpses from the dead and have them taken over by demons. Two hundred years later, in the present day, Naberius has hired a scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) to help him on his quest. She is, of course, completely unaware of what is really going on and thinks she is on her way to cure death and help humanity. She quickly joins Adam once she figures out the truth.
The film’s merit isn’t the plot, but if you manage to suspend any disbelief (gargoyles fighting demons is a strange concept to get to grips with at first) you are in for truly epic popcorn cinema. The hand-to-hand combat scenes are beautifully choreographed and a wonderful pleasure to watch. When demons get killed, they go up in flames – and there is a lot of beautifully animated fire in the film. In short, I, Frankenstein is visually stunning, and a good reason to watch it on the big screen instead of grabbing it on DVD or even BluRay. This is a movie clearly made for the cinema, not for a television.
Aaron Eckhart plays Frankenstein’s monster perfectly – the quiet anger, the self-hatred, the loneliness and the aversion to trust other beings. Miranda Otto, perhaps best known as Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, manages to swing so easily from emotion to cold-hearted warrior queen it is a delight to watch her. Yvonne Strahovski, who showed off her skills as the serial killer Hannah McKay on Dexter, sadly disappoints as the naive scientist, but also doesn’t get much from the script to use her full potential. The most praise however has to go to Bill Nighy, who is known more for his comedies than for playing villains. His dark prince Naberius is the epitomy of evil: he is ruthless, has no morality and is obsessed with ruling all of humanity. To watch Nighy jump from pretend-Mr-Nice-CEO to murdering demon alone gets this film an additional star.
If I, Frankenstein’s visual world looks familiar, it’s because it is very reminiscent of the Underworld franchise, which was also written by Kevin Grevioux. Whether such consistency across universes is a good or a bad thing might be a matter of personal taste, but the atmosphere created definitely works in both.
The film leaves enough of an open end to allow a sequel. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, if they kept the same cast and combat choreographers. At an hour and a half, the film is over too quickly and feels very short with its quick cuts and fast action scenes – but its short running time also stops it from dragging out a plot that’s barely existent. I, Frankenstein knows what it is and makes no effort to be a serious film. If you like the good-vs-evil fantasy genre with a bit of a silly twist, then you will love I, Frankenstein. Don’t miss it.