Director Stuart Beattie's 2014 film I, Frankenstein starts off with a quick rehash and revamping (some liberties are taken here) of how Mary Shelley's classic novel came to a close. From there we learn how Frankenstein's monster was left alone in the world and catch up with him as he's strolling through a forest where he's promptly attacked by a horde of demons. A battle ensues and he's saved by gargoyles who take him back to their castle lair and bring them to their leader, Leonore (Miranda Otto), who decides that since he's never had a name, she shall name him Adam (Aaron Eckhart). She explains to Adam that the Order Of The Gargoyles have been tasked by the angel Michael himself with using sacramental weaponry to defend the populace against the same demons that were after him. Lead by someone named Naberius (Bill Nighy), they've more or less been a constant thorn in their collective sword. They instruct him in their ways but Adam is a loner and soon enough, he heads out on his own.
As the years pass and humans are born and then die, Adam remains ageless. We follow him into modern times where he's brought up to speed: Naberius has begun to assemble an army of corpses that his demon hordes can inhabit and possess and he needs to be stopped. Naberius, no calling himself Wessex and posing as a wealthy businessman type, has teamed up with a pretty blonde scientist named Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) who is working on her own project in hopes of learning how to create life. While all of this is going on, Naberius seeks the late Dr. Frankenstein's journal in hopes of using its secrets to finalize his sinister plan…
This could have just as easily been an entry in the Underworld series (the film shares some of the same producers as that series) or the Blade series with a few simple changes, meaning most of what we see here we've not only seen before but we've seen it done with more creativity and effectiveness than it's handled with here. This movie is one gigantic cliché after the next, from the grouchy, sulky anti-hero (there are shades of Batman here) lead to the nerdy female scientist who lets her hair down and turns into a sex bomb (Strahovski, probably best known as Hannah McKay in Dexter, definitely has it going on) to the fact that the bad guy poses as a corporate industrialist type. All of this is unfortunate as there was definitely potential in the concept of bringing Frankenstein's monster into the modern day and having him square off against a bad guy who, despite his demonic origins, is essentially following in the footsteps of his own creator.
The performances are as decent as the script will allow for. Eckhart skulks and lumbers about but bursts into high-octane action hero mode once the bad guys show up. He doesn't emote, but the narration supplied by his character seems like it's supposed to make us feel for him. We don't. Nighy seems to be having fun hamming it up in spots but like our protagonist, his antagonist could have easily been swapped out with another equally uninteresting super villain. Miranda Otto is frustratingly deadpan as her character and those she leads can't seem to make up their minds about how to deal with Adam while Yvonne Strahovski adds nothing but eye candy to the movie. Most of the problems here stem not to the performances, but to the way in which these completely one dimensional characters are written.
None of the concept's potential is exploited. Instead we're beat over the head with rampant CGI effects in which the demons Adam kills ‘descend' back to Hell in a flurry of fake flames and artificial ash and completely unconvincing fight scenes that borrow more from UFC style inspired action films than any sort of gothic horror trappings you might have hoped for. All of this results in a movie that is both superficial and dumb. No brainless entertainment can be fun but when you make a movie called I, Frankenstein and do nothing (outside of the first five minutes) to tie this movie into the incredibly rich history of the characters who established the mythos in the first place you've essentially taken a decent idea and flushed it down the toilet.
I, Frankenstein arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate framed at 2.40.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and it looks just as good as you'd expect a brand spankin' new Hollywood production to look. This is a very dark movie but black levels stay deep and shadow detail is pretty strong throughout. Color reproduction is nice and bright without looking oversaturated while skin tones look lifelike and natural when they should and sickly and undead where appropriate (Adam's face early on, for example). Shot on high end digital video, there are obviously no issues with print damage, dirt or debris and what we're left with is a sharp, detailed image that shows good texture and depth even while much of the movie takes place during the night or in dimly lit interiors. Both 2-D and 3-D versions of the movie are included on the same disc, the comments above apply to the 2-D version.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is also very strong, in fact, it's almost a constant barrage of aggressive surround activity. You'll notice this from the opening fight scene where Adam is attacked by the demons all the way through to the big finish, the front and rear channels have almost always got something going on in them and your subwoofer will get a pretty serious work out too. Bass response is strong and very powerful and while it occasionally comes close to burying things, it never quite gets there, thankfully. Dialogue and effects are nicely balanced and well placed in the mix and there are no issues to note at all with even a trace of hiss or distortion. An optional Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is included on the disc as well and there are removable subtitles offered up in English SDH and Spanish.
In the first of the disc's two commentary tracks director/co-writer Stuart Beattie flies solo and actually delivers a pretty interesting talk about what went into making this film from the ground up. He covers the casting, the ideas behind the picture, the effects work, the locations and the technology used to create the world where the movie plays out. He keeps the information coming quickly and delivers a pretty comprehensive overview of what his work on this project entailed. A second commentary track gathers up producers Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright and James McQuaid alongside co-writer Kevin Grevioux. With four participants it would stand to reason that this too would be a pretty active track, and it is. They talk about some of the themes and ideas that worked their way into the story, their admiration for what the cast and crew were able to accomplish, the use of computers and technology in the film and quite a bit more.
Additionally we get two featurettes, the first of which is the thirteen minute long Creating A Monster which is basically a look at the traditional makeup effects that were used as well as some of the digital effects that were also used to develop the creatures featured in the movie. The second featurette is the fourteen minute Frankenstein's Creatures and it's a mix of behind the scenes footage, quick (and fairly shallow) interviews with some of the cast and crew and effects test footage. Neither feature is really all that deep and they both feel a little more promotional in nature than you might like, but admittedly some of the behind the scenes footage is interesting to see.
Rounding out the extras for this release is a theatrical trailer for the feature, previews for a few unrelated Lionsgate properties, animated menus and chapter selection. All of the extras on the disc are in high definition and as this is a combo pack release we also get a download code for an Ultra-Violet Digital Copy of the feature. The Blu-ray case fits inside a cardboard slipcover package.
Had the story in I, Frankenstein actually done something to take advantage of the fact that, well, the movie featured the Frankenstein monster, maybe it would have been more interesting. As it stands, the lead character is interchangeable with pretty much any other ‘dark hero' you'd care to name. The movie goes at a good pace and it offers up plenty of visual flair and loads of style but none of that really adds up to much when the story is as generic and pedestrian as it is here. Lionsgate's Blu-ray release is solid on a technical level and features some decent supplements, but the movie really kind of stinks. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.