If you want to know what’s wrong with the world today, just take a look how our monsters have devolved. It’s a long, bad trip from Boris Karloff to Aaron Eckhart, who plays the hybridized undead Frankenstein creature as an existential hero in I, Frankenstein. In Mary Shelley’s insanely influential book, Frankenstein’s monster is a bit of a lonesome wanderer, though that version was more about the Baron’s hubris experiments than the poor zipper head. That monster was a punisher. After seeing Eckhart in this ridiculously elaborate (but not unwatchable) battle between demigods and demons, you will surely prefer the inarticulate yet expressive 1930s version, with his sexy droopy eyelids. Stoic bad boys always trump handsome recluses.
Nonetheless, I, Frankenstein, with its pompous Robert Graves title, has some wonders dotting its weird cosmic battle storyline. For some reason, demons want to reclaim Frankenstein’s monster, who has been living a loner’s life ever since his creation. Chief demon Bill Nighy has also found an icy, beautiful scientist to work out his puzzling obsession with the reanimation of human tissue. Turns out, surprisingly, there’s a semi-rational explanation. In the meantime, who cares? — the scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) is so beautiful she makes the whole movie seem fine. Likewise, Miranda Otto (Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings) plays the Queen of the Good Gargoyles. Okay, it sounds dumb, but it’s not as bad as the Underworld series, which was produced by the same company.
Unfortunately, the weakest link in this whole nocturnal apocalypse cityscape is Eckhart, who gives almost no expressive energies to his part beyond glowering grunts. His lines aren’t great either. Any film that includes dialogue like, “This ends tonight,” just begs to be called camp. Yet this Australian production is too beautiful to be laughed away. It’s just wrong to have a pretty boy in the monster role. In one scene, Strahovski repeats those immortal lines, “It’s alive, alive.” Maybe she is, but her antihero is anything but electrifying.