Thursday, May 29, 2014

I, Frankenstein 2D / 3D Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) portrays one of the most iconic horror legends of all time in the gripping adventure I, Frankenstein. which follows Frankenstein's monster (Eckhart) 200 years after Dr. Frankenstein's shocking creation came to life. Celestial forces name the creature Adam, and arm him with weapons to defeat the demons that are constantly seeking his destruction. However, soon Adam finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity and discovers that he also holds the key that could destroy humankind. Also starring Bill Nighy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), Yvonne Strahovski (TV's "Chuck," TV's "Dexter"), Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, TV's "Rake"), Jai Courtney (upcoming Divergent, A Good Day to Die Hard) and Kevin Grevioux (Underworld, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), I, Frankenstein was written for the screen and directed by Stuart Beattie (30 Days Of Night, G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra) with a screen story by Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)
As the film begins, I’m struck with the notion I’ve seen this before.  It feels like it could be a sequel to Van Helsing, or another chapter in the Underworld Saga.  Dr. Frankenstein has unsuccessfully attempted to destroy his creation.  The monster (Aaron Eckhart) retaliates, killing his wife – “a life for a life”.  This is where the film appears as though it’s about to take an unexpected twist on the on the Frankenstein myth.  As the monster buries Dr. Frankenstein’s body demons appear, but the film doesn’t take the path I’d hoped for. It is not the vampires that I had hoped were sweeping in, but gargoyles. Gargoyles can appear as the stone figures on the tops of buildings, but also in human form.  They are heavenly creatures who roam the Earth protecting humanity from demons.  

When demons are killed, they descend to hell.  When Gargoyles are killed they ascend to heaven.  The leader of the gargoyles, Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) gives the monster a name, Adam.  Leonore feels that Adam is important but often appears uncertain about his future.  Adam refuses to join the order of the gargoyles but he picks up a few tips and weapons from them. It should be no surprise to the gargoyles that Adam doesn’t play well with others and he heads out on his own.  Adam hopes the demons would give up on him as he wanders the earth for approximately 200 years.  

This is not the case and he fights, descending demons.  The demon Prince/Businessman Wessex (Bill Nighy) wants Adam so that he can recreate Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments.  He has enlisted the services of scientist Tara Wade (Yvonne Strahovski) who is attempting to reanimate rats.  She doesn’t realize that she is working for a demon, and thinks she is years away from human trials. Once it becomes clear that Wessex needs Adam to return the descended demons to the earth, Adam is hunted by both the demons and the gargoyles.  Wessex wants to lead an army of demons, destroying gargoyles and mankind.

I always expect more out of films of this nature and they usually grow on me during repeat viewing when my expectations are gone.  I, Frankenstein will likely do the same.  It is dark, gloomy and full of monsters.  That pretty much describes the formula for my perfect movie. In recent years, vampire and werewolves have dominated the big screen with Frankenstein’s monster being left out ever since Van Helsing. I understand that vampires can be sexy and werewolves are terrifying and powerful.  Just because Frankenstein’s monster isn't as attractive, it doesn't mean he should be forgotten – zombies are ugly and look how much screen time they get! 

Any way, back to the movie. On first viewing, my problem with I , Frankenstein was the fact that the story started off appearing like it could truly be a unique and unexpected arc before quickly becoming  very predictable.  The film starts off with a very angry monster that might terrorize the world, but by the end, we are left with an introspective Adam wondering if he is a man or just a collection of pieces made to resemble one. Much discussion is had about souls, both ascending and descending and it’s what leads to the very expected twist at the end. 

The story even includes the formulaic addition of a beautiful woman who in one minute is unaware of the supernatural and in the next is working with Adam to save the world, unphased by his existence and its implications. Bill Nighy, though, in my opinion should remain in the Underworld universe as I am fairly convinced that he is actually a vampire. Hearing his voice immediately transports me to Underworld, as does the deep voiced overgrown bodyguard that played one of the Lychans in the same film. I could complain about these kind of details for days, but I did enjoy the film overall. 
2D Video (4 out of 5 stars)   3D Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I, Frankenstein is presented on Blu-ray with both 2D and 3D 1080p transfers in a 2.40:1 ratio.  This is an incredibly dark film which looks great.  The detail and sharpness are not lost in the darkness and texture is apparent, especially in Adam’s skin and scars.  It has the same blue/black tint as Underworld and similar movies, which is almost the standard with all creature features these days. In 3D the film is not just about things being thrown at the camera, but also about the depth of the scene.  Battle scenes are immersive in 3D, often including soaring and flying by gargoyles.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I, Frankenstein's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix offers extensive detail if you are listening.  With so much going on, it is easy to tune out as well.  The sound effects as demons descend are the type of elements with an interesting sound that you eventually fail to notice.  Dialogue is consistent and intelligible throughout the film, regardless of the action.  Monster effects and weapon crashes are also well done.  Directionality should also be applauded in both sound effects and dialogue.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains two worthwhile commentary, two featurette’s and the film’s trailer.
  • Audio Commentary:
    • with Co-Writer/Director Stuart Beattie – This commentary provides more information than the second and is worth the time.
    • with Filmmakers Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, James McQuaid, and Kevin Grevioux.  A more conversational commentary, also recommended.
  • "Creating a Monster" Featurette – A thirteen minute look at the monster makeup and special effects.
  • "Frankenstein's Creatures" Featurette -   A slight longer featurette with interviews and clips from the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer 
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
When a film feels so much like other films that’s not usually a good sign.  While I, Frankenstein does look like other films, it does a good job of looking like those films.  I very quickly got used to the similarities and did enjoy the film.  I wouldn't be so bothered by the predictability of the plot if the film hadn't started by teasing me as if it was going to get to see something new. When I judge things like this I’m reminded of listening to Kevin Smith reminding critics that most of them have never created anything. While I, Frankenstein could have been better, it was certainly more than I could have ever conceived of.  The story might have been lacking, but in the end the monsters are believable, the story is entertaining and the film now has a place in my supernatural section of the movie shelf.  I will not watch it as often as I watch Underworld or Resident Evil, but it will get more action than The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Fright Night.

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