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I, Frankenstein (2014)
Begun as a short story when she was 18 years old, Mary Shelley's 19th century masterpiece of gothic science fiction tells the story of an introspective yet frightening creature built from human body parts, brought to life with chemicals by a brilliant scientist who ultimately loses everything trying to destroy his creation. The book was included among the literary work of Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway and J.R.R. Tolkien in the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper's 2008 ultimate reading list of 110 Best Books.
The novel's most famous big screen incarnation, Universal Pictures' electrifying iconic horror, Frankenstein (1931), starring Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster, barely resembles Shelley's original story, but was inducted into the US Library of Congress' National Film Registry of culturally significant films in 1991 and ranked 56th in the American Film Institute's 2001 celebration of The 100 Most Thrilling American Films. In 1994, Robert De Niro starred as the titular doctor's creature in the Oscar-nominated Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, pretty well the only recognizably faithful Hollywood adaptation of Mary Shelley's famed book so far.
As for Darkstorm Studios' 2009 graphic novel this movie was reportedly based on, it was apparently a one-shot extreme revamp of the Frankenstein monster as a noir-style detective. More a Frankenstein, P.I. yarn, the comic book was the brainchild of actor, screenwriter and comic book writer Kevin Grevioux. He's probably best known to movie fans for developing and co-writing the film Underworld (2003), as well as for playing the werewolf character Raze in that movie and in its prequel, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009). Grevioux has a supporting role in the I, Frankenstein movie too, as Wessex's head of security.
I, Frankenstein the movie is a hugely fun, wonderfully imaginative horror-based action romp that refreshes the Frankenstein saga. Literary purists will still likely cringe. The opening scenes are set at the end of the 1700s and cleverly recap much of Shelley's novel, but it's all somewhat tempered by familiar Hollywood adaptations. Then the script shifts into overdrive, creating an action-packed twist in the tale for the Frankenstein monster - named Adam - to be dragged into an ancient war fought between Godly gargoyles and demonic, uh, demons. At stake is the existence of mankind, oblivious to this generations-old battle of good versus evil raging at night in a creepy old, rotting European-looking city of people possibly too busy texting to notice.
Aaron Eckhart is great as the movie's perpetually grimacing, beastie butt-kickin' anti-hero Adam. His interpretation is rife with wonderfully nuanced dramatic humanity, visibly bubbling under The Monster's scar tissue. While checking out the poster, trailer and website for my pre-screening Pressbook Review of I, Frankenstein (read it here), it was tough to tell if Eckhart was afforded enough of a script to make Adam interesting beyond the CGI-enhanced action scenes and the novelty of seeing this legendary monster in something new on the big screen. Naturally, Eckhart delivers. His portrayal of Frankenstein's monster is an incredibly compelling, fleshed out character that pays mindful homage to Mary Shelley's ground-breaking book, within this updated story's fast-paced fantasy adventure made for contemporary action film fans who loved the likes of Underworld, and Van Helsing (2004).
Relax. I, Frankenstein does have its wobbly bits, but it definitely isn't as wildly ham-and-cheesy as the film Van Helsing was. I'm just citing related examples from the genre, and mentioning that movie because a couple of fairly big plot points seen in this movie feel similar.
Wanting to remain secluded after
the death of Dr. Frankenstein, Adam discovers he's being hunted
by demons. So, he does what any self-respecting super strong
man-doll - sorry, collectable action figure - would do: Adam
spends the next 200 years seeking out and killing his devilish
pursuers, neither aware of nor interested in what the demons
want him for. Demons bad. Adam SMASH! (Read
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