The mediocrity of I Frankenstein is so self evident, one cannot help but think of the constant battle the poor filmmakers must’ve had with studio executives to even get the script finalised, let alone shoot the whole film.
A sense of wonderment and intrigue lasts all of five minutes, when, for a few brief, precious moments we are able to see the genius of Dr Victor Frankenstein. A narration conveys his desire to bring a monster to life- (who he names Adam) – made entirely from different pieces of dead corpses. After killing Frankenstein’s wife in a fit of rage, Adam leaves, closely chased by Frankenstein. Doctor Frankenstein then succumbs to the cold, and while this is happening, the monster leaves. See how much potential there is to establish something engaging? Instead, alas, commercialism and special effect-ism win the day. Enter: gargoyles and demons; exit: the intrigue.
Special effects are heavily overused and devalue I Frankenstein . When using CGI, the intention ought not to be to detract from what is happening on screen, but to add value to telling the story. The special effects merely add to the strange “third act” feel that I Frankenstein has. It feels like a film within a film. When gargoyles and demons are battling it out towards the end of the film there is almost a pause for uncertainty before the special effects get completely unleashed. Instead of an aide, CGI feels almost like a dependence for director Stuart Beattie.
In a modern day city (which is never named) Adam is summoned to see the gargoyle Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who explains their duty of fighting off demons, which are led by Prince Nebarius (Bill Nighy). To summarise it simply, Frankenstein’s monster is caught up in the battle between gargoyles and demons. One side is trying to get his help, the other is trying to capture and exploit him. Nebarius (in disguise of course) has hired a female scientist (Miranda Otto) to assist him learn more about how Adam works.
That is pretty much all there is to know about the storyline. It also leaves only one possible outcome for the story. Working on such a weak screenplay can’t have been easy, consequently character development falls very flat. Aaron Eckhart, who was superb in Thank you for Smoking and The Dark Knight relies entirely on adrenaline to move through each scene. The book which his creator left him is never properly examined, appearing more as a token gesture than anything else. Acclaimed actor Bill Nighy fares no better. With the title Demon Prince, you’d think audiences would experience a character shrewdly skilled in striking fear into people. However, on many occasions he’s like of those goofy caricatures in Epic Movie. In one scene, for example, Adam confronts Nebarius, who responds by racing through a rather generous soliloquy full of clichés and tough talk.
If the desire was to create a gothic style film based on the mythology of demons and gargoyles, then ‘yes’ there certainly are crane shots of the brilliant cathedral and the menacing, conveyer-belt style of dead corpse beings which perhaps capture the initial intention. However that is not enough to save a film so deficient, not even its big name actors, producers and director could save it.