I, FRANKENTEIN is the brainchild, via the Darkstorm Studios graphic novel, of Stuart Beattie, the driving force behind the improbably successful UNDERWORLD franchise. I say improbably because if you have seen one UNDERWORLD flick, you have by extension seen them all. I, FRANKENSTEIN is all but indistinguishable from its cinematic sibling, right down to the industrial palette of its art directions, to Bill Nighy once again sporting a full-length leather kilt. It comes later in the flick than it usually does, but no matter. Nighy is even once again the leader of a murderous supernatural group bent on the decimation of another supernatural group, oh and most of humanity.
Instead of werewolves and vampires we have gargoyles and demons, who also shape-shift. There is something to be said for Mr. Beattie wanting to get out from under the pop-culture glut of vampires as brooding romantic heroes, and it is to his credit that, though Frankensteins monster is not the intuitive next wave of immortal hunks, he has found a fine morsel of finely ripped manflesh in Aaron Eckhart. He has also found a fine actor, though Eckhart is not allowed to show off much more than those startlingly defined abs and grimly determined martial arts moves. Eckhart, however, does brood with all the dark turmoil necessary to the role, and then some. This is important, because Adam, as he is dubbed by the gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto), is a low-relief network of nasty scars covered in a layer of low-relief grime. The 18th-century medical arts being primitive, Dr. Frankenstein (seen here only in flashback) was able to reanimate a creature made up of the bits and pieces of eight corpses, but not remove the scars from the surgeries and suturing inherent in the process.
But I digress.
Adam has been on the hunt for demons for 200 years, and this has a lovely synchronicity because they have been looking for him, too. The king of the demons, Naberius (Nighy) has big plans for Adam and for Dr. Frankensteins notebook that Adam has on him. After two centuries, and an unfortunate early encounter with the gargoyles, the heaven-sent protectors of humankind, Adam returns from a self-imposed exile in the wilderness with a renewed sense of demon-hunting. Naberius has, as all good demon princes will do, established himself as the head of an enormous corporation, this one funding research into the reanimation of corpses.
It all gets very silly very quickly, with flying hordes of gargoyles streaming forth from the effusively buttressed cathedral in the middle of a sprawling and cosmopolitan metropolis to do ineffectual battle with the demons, and Nighy gamely going through the prescribed motions of his generic character as he has done in so many other Beattie movies. Otto looks worried beneath her swirly bouffant, her minions looks peeved that she is coddling Adam rather than killing him, and the requisite comely lady scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) actually plays real doctor with Adam while attempting to quell her look of astonishment at his stunning physique.
The point of a film like this is mood and action rather than story, and even here there is much lacking. The special effects are as pedestrian as the writing, and even less imaginative in both execution and concept. Nighy, for the most part, is less infernally menacing than he is suffused with an imperious ennui, an ennui broken only in a few scenes with Eckhart that serve to show the dullness before and afterwards. The action sequences are predictable, even though we learn by watching them that gargoyles never, ever use a door when outside their cathedral, preferring the dramatic entrance and extensive property damage of exploding through walls and ceilings.
Watching I, FRANKENSTEIN is like watching inertia become entropy, though even that description makes it sound more interesting than it is. Dark, humorless, singularly lacking in suspense, and oddly muted on many, many levels, it is first and foremost a waste of Eckhart (check out his collaborations with Neil LaBute), as well as of your time.