I, Frankenstein (UK - BD RB)
Chris gets to grips with the Blu-ray 3D release of this recent Underworld clone
Set in a dystopic present where vigilant gargoyles and ferocious demons rage in a battle for ultimate power, Victor Frankenstein’s creation Adam (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself caught in the middle as both sides race to discover the secret to his immortality. From the creators of the hit supernatural saga, Underworld, comes the action thriller I, Frankenstein, written for the screen and directed by Stuart Beattie, based on the graphic novel "I, Frankenstein" by Kevin Grevioux, and brought to life by a cast that includes Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Mahesh Jadu, Caitlin Stasey and Aden Young as Victor Frankenstein. (Taken from the PR.)
I caught I, Frankenstein theatrically, and truth be told I had no desire to see it a second time. I had hoped that it might be one of those films that would reveal hidden charms on subsequent viewings, but unfortunately watching it again on Blu-ray has served only to confirm my first impression. I’ve never been a terribly big fan of writer Kevin Grevioux’s Underworld universe, so it should come as no big surprise to find that I was even less enamoured of this joyless slog through a mishmash of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Gargoyles TV show, and what appears to be a rip-off of the plot of the Stephen Sommers Van Helsing movie…
Marvel as stars like Aaron Eckhart, Miranda Otto and Bill Nighy deliver unbelievably clumsy exposition and dialogue that should have remained unspoken. Gaze in wonder at vaguely familiar Australian actors struggling with their pseudo-English accents. Stare in awe at the confusing geography of the nameless city that appears to have a population of just three people (honestly, where is everyone?). Gasp at uninspiring action sequences that remind you of similar moments from much better films. Watch in horror as you realise that the display on your Blu-ray player only reads thirty seven minutes…
I don’t want to harp on about the cast, because it’s only one of the film’s problems, but Eckhart is woefully miscast here. I realise he’s playing what is essentially a soulless monster, but it’s such a perpetually dull, po-faced performance one can’t help wonder if a reanimated corpse might have made for a better lead. Similarly Miranda ‘Cate Blanchett said no’ Otto, who I enjoyed well enough in the Lord of the Rings movies, is thoroughly unlikeable as the leader of a bunch of stone dicks who cause more harm than good. Her fellow Aussies Jai Courtney and Yvonne Strahovski are best known to me from Spartacus and Chuck respectively, but while Courtney is thoroughly believable as a moody jock A-hole (not a compliment) Strahovski ‘s turn as ‘one of the world’s most respected electrophysiologists’ (that is an actual line of dialogue spoken in the film) positively screams 'Christmas Jones'. Even the usually delightful Bill Nighy is simply playing the same character he played in the Underworld series, but not as well…
Shot on Red Epic digital cameras, you’d expect I, Frankenstein to at least look the part. Well it does, with one or two caveats. Firstly it should be noted that the 3D here is of the post-converted variety, which rarely (if ever) yields the same sort of quality as true 3D photography. Secondly, while there are actually two separate versions of the film on the disc (I’ve checked the playlists and .m2ts files with BDInfo), the levels of the 2D version look to be very similar to the left eye image of the 3D version. This means that the 2D version of the film is a hair too bright throughout. It may not be terribly noticeable in isolation, but it’s readily apparent when viewing immediately after the 3D version.
Anyway, said 3D version was the one I chose to watch for the purposes of the review, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the results. For one thing the slightly elevated levels evident in the 2D presentation are not an issue in 3D. Everything looks exactly as it should do, with rich, deep blacks and great contrast. The film’s colour palette adopts the overused and boring orange and teal scheme, but it’s not as egregious as the worst examples and the cool blues are at least in keeping with the Underworld movies stylistically. Detail is generally very good throughout, and I spotted few instances of artefacting (some minor banding on the distributor logos is all that springs to mind). The 3D effects themselves are okay, if nothing to write home about. A number of elements look forced, almost like cardboard cut-outs, but the action sequences yield better results, particularly those in which the flying gargoyles twist and turn their way through the environment. On balance I think the Blu-ray is actually a more pleasing experience than the theatrical showing I attended, at least from a visual standpoint. I don't say this often, but the 3D version is the preferred way of watching here, but don't fret if you lack the necessary equipment because the gulf isn't all that wide.
A solitary DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is the order of the day here, and like the video it’s a competent effort that falls short of greatness. I was initially concerned about the level of the film’s dialogue, but once I’d cranked up the volume I realised that it wasn’t a mixing issue, just a case of the overall volume of the track being considerably quieter than most. There’s a lot of activity from the outset, be it subtle environmental effects or the sounds of battle, but oddly for a film with such wide-scale destruction the soundtrack often feels quite restrained. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty going on here, but the mix is never as engaging or cohesive as the very best features in spite of all of that carnage. Still, there’s more than enough to enjoy during the larger set-pieces, with some particularly pleasing directional effects in evidence (think gargoyles flying and demons exploding into fireballs). Bass is a constant presence, at times providing some truly throaty support to the on-screen action (the demise of one demon in particular rattled the ornaments), as is the rocky musical score (although that’s less memorable). To be brutally honest I’m not entirely sure why I was a little underwhelmed by this track, because all of the elements are there, but it just didn’t wow me.
- Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Stuart Beattie: The director delivers and informative, well-paced track that provides a constant stream of facts about the production. With that said, it's quite a dry affair, so be warned.
- Commentary by Filmmakers Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, James McQuaide and Kevin Grevioux: The group commentary isn't quite as focussed as the solo chat track, but it's marginally more entertaining simply by virtue of the greater number of participants. It does cover a lot of the same ground though.
- Frankenstein's Creatures: This pseudo making-of featurette is a little on the short side, but there are some interesting facts to be gleaned from the participants, which include the cast, director, writers and producers. The strong Underworld connection really comes across here.
- Creating a Monster: This featurette concentrates on the character and creature design, the practical make-up effects, costume design and CGI. It's a pretty lightweight piece, but I found some of it interesting.
I, Frankenstein is a relentlessly fast-paced action film that somehow manages to be unceasingly boring. Filled with clunky exposition and unlikeable characters, none of whom I related to or rooted for, this derivative picture ranks as one of the worst I’ve seen this year ( The Legend of Hercules currently holds the dubious honour of ‘worst’). While I realise that the movie score might seem a little generous in light of my slating, I reserve the really low scores for the direct-to-video garbage that truly deserve it. Its many failings aside, this picture is at least competently shot and made to a relatively high standard…
As for the Blu-ray, well it’s actually pretty decent from a technical perspective. The video is solid in either 2D or 3D (although the latter is superior in this case), audio is impressive, and what initially looks like a fairly weak roster of bonus featurettes are bolstered by the presence of two commentary tracks. If you did enjoy this film I don’t think you’ll have any complaints about Entertainment in Video’s Blu-ray release, but that’s a big if…
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 26th May 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Featurettes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stuart Beattie
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Aden Young, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney
Genre: Action and Fantasy
Length: 92 minutes
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