One of the key requirements for an action movie to be classified as ‘shite’ is that there must be a moment of laughably disastrous logic that completely negates an attempted ‘serious’ atmosphere. My favourite one of these is when weedy little Matthew Broderick kicks a 9-foot baby Godzilla out of a lift. While Adam (Aaron Eckhart), the monster of I, Frankenstein posses phenomenal, superhuman strength, I’m prepared to rank the moment he punches a huge, flying stone gargoyle out of the sky from the ground as one of these nail-in-the-coffin moments.
This isn’t to say that the entire movie isn’t laughable, however; the gargoyle incident is just the icing on the cake. I spent the first thirty minutes laughing like Nicolas Cage at the movie’s overblown austerity, as well as its clunky reliance on clichés and its dialogue which is minimalist only in terms of creativity. Worse still, it changes the ending of Mary Shelley’s novel so that it can transition it into its own nonsensical plot, where Frankenstein’s monster is drawn into a centuries-old war by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, as soon as Eckhart begins his introductory voiceover narration, you can tell this movie is going to be as B-grade as they come.
Despite, or maybe because of these issues, I Frankenstein is trashy fun, full of low-rate special effects and dumb phrases – for instance, the monster (cornily renamed Adam here for, I suppose, ‘thematic depth’) utters the phrase ‘This ends tonight,’ in Eckhart’s deepest, most gravelly tones, just before a showdown that has no build up whatsoever. That momentum is of such absence in the movie is mainly due to the soundtrack, which doesn’t attempt to support the visual rhythm or create tension in any way – it’s just there. Throughout, even in the scenes where energy is needed the most, it consistently sounds like the in-game menu music from Devil May Cry.
The schlock gradually piles up to become the closest thing to a saving grace that I, Frankenstein ever gets. Bill Nighy turns in the most Bill Nighy performance of his life in his role as the big bad demon (yeah, it’s demons versus gargoyles – zzzzz). Eckhart, playing an English monster in a movie set in England, surrounded by English accents, never alters his American accent. Bewilderingly, the film’s nonsensical internal logic finally reaches a boiling point, far too late, where it becomes interesting purely unto itself. That the film was intended to kick-start a franchise yet failed so drastically at the Box Office says more about this movie’s failings than I ever could, yet either way, it’s a fantastic choice for having a ‘movie night’ with a special someone; it’s entertaining at its own expense, you don’t have to concentrate too much and, more importantly, you could switch it off at any point without feeling like you’re missing anything.
I, Frankenstein was written and directed by Stuart Beattie and stars Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Socratis Otto, Jai Courtney and Kevin Grevioux. It lasts for 92 minutes and is a production of Hopscotch Features, Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. Distributed in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by Entertainment Video. Originally released in 2014.