Thursday, 20 November 2014

Movie Review: I, Frankenstein (2014)

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword seeing Australian names in mainstream cinema: Sometimes you get James Wan, director of The Conjuring as well as the original Saw; and sometimes you get Baz Luhrman, director of Moulin Rouge and Australia, among other pieces of pretentious dribble. I love seeing this great (at times) country I live in being represented in Hollywood, but it doesn’t always yield the best results. With today’s film, we have Stuart Beattie as writer/director who’s had a very murky track record of late, having been a co-writer on G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, the aforementioned Australia as well as a re-writer on Punisher: War Zone. This is I, Frankenstein.
The plot: Frankenstein (played by Aaron Eckhart) has been on Earth for 200 years, being hunted by demons under the command of demon prince Naberius (played by Bill Nighy). Naberius wants Frankenstein for his plans, and the Gargoyles, the group that fights against the demons, have to keep Frankenstein out of their grasp while the monster himself just wants answers.
I feel like a bit of a broken record here, as once again I have to emphasize how bad the special effects are in a film I’m reviewing. What makes this even worse is that, somehow, this movie manages to top The Legend Of Hercules in terms of cheap looking computer effects. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, looks like it even belongs in the same cutting room as the film it’s attached to. This isn’t just Asylum mockbuster-levels of cheap; this looks like someone took the animations out of one of those free action movie effects apps for smartphones and used them for the effects. Even going past the computer effects, the make-up work here is haphazard at best as well. Eckhart in no way looks like he has been composed of miscellaneous body parts, and looks more like he has just been in a couple of nasty fights. At the risk of invoking some weird derivative of Godwin’s Law, this is actually less believable than when Edward from Twilight was trying to convince people that he was a monster. Put simply, with Eckhart, it’s even more obvious that they were trying to sell his character, a walking corpse in essence, more as being sexy than being scary.
If there’s one thing I can at least give this movie, it’s that the acting is decent. Eckhart was a damn good choice to play Frankenstein and he gives a certain gruffness that fits how the character is written here. Nighy does well enough as Naberius, being authoritative and threatening as his role requires, although in quite a few scenes his natural air of danger is somewhat dampened by the bad demonic vocal effect they put on his voice. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, guys. The rest of the cast, like Jai Courtney (who at this point seems to naturally gravitate towards crap movies) and Miranda Otto, do okay with their roles, but this is where we get to the biggest problem with this movie: The acting is fine, but it’s not enough to turn this script into anything worth watching.
While the dark urban fantasy setting is getting more than a little overused in the last ten years or so, I would be willing to let it slide if they gave something that could fill that setting and make it interesting. Unfortunately, we get wildly inconsistent characters, a prologue that seems tacked on because I’m guessing Beattie still wasn’t sure what era to set the movie in at that stage, an extremely derivative villain plot and various other subscriptions (continuous streams of issues). We keep getting characters contradicting themselves, sometimes in the same scene, mostly from the gargoyle queen Leonore and one of her soldiers Gideon, played by Otto and Courtney respectively. Hell, even with contradictions, their actions are usually stupid for their own reasons, not the least of which being that the gargoyles had no idea just how close the demons’ headquarters were to their own until they tricked into following Frankenstein to them. Not only that, the villain’s plans for Frankenstein? It’s the plot of Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman copied and pasted. Seriously, it is literally the same plot; just replace ‘vampire babies’ with ‘possessed corpses’ and the plan and Frankenstein’s role within said plan is the exact same. You know, as much as Van Helsing gets flak with many critics, at least the writing and effects in that weren’t nearly as bad as they are here. There’s also a romance that’s hinted at more than a few times between Frankenstein and Terra Wade (played by Yvonne Strzechowski), one of the scientists working for Naberius, but it’s just dropped at the end of the film with a loud thud that I’m guessing was meant to be explained in a future sequel. Given how badly this movie did at the box office, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that ever surfacing.
All in all, this is Taliban-brand terri-bad. Sure, it may have better actors than LoH, but between the incessantly horrid writing and the lazy special effects, this actually turns out worse at the end of it all. It ranks lower than And So It Goes, as at least that had Diane Keaton’s singing voice to distract me from time to time, but it’s still higher than Planes: Fire And Rescue, which was more consistently annoying. This shoves it right into the worst films of the year so far section; I can't even recommend this as a movie to watch and laugh at

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