From the producers of Underworld and one of the the scripters responsible for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl comes...frankly, if that ignominious ancestry doesn’t scare you off, nothing will.
January has become a terrifying month for horror films, as with each passing year we ring in the new with hoary comic book hanky-panky aimed at undemanding gamers who don’t like it when storytelling gets in the way of their visual effects. After all, these are the kids who made the Underworld franchise — with it’s genre-bending flying werewolves — such a big success.
Knowing full well that fanboys aren’t the ones to court with Oscar-bait, for the past five years Hollywood has counter-booked the slowest month of the year with recycled horrors such as The Unborn, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Legion, The Rite, The Devil Inside, Underworld: Awakening, Beneath the Darkness, Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Mama.
Shot as a “flatty,” Lionsgate soon realized the only way to add depth to this goth pancake was a 3-D conversion. In February of 2013 the studio pushed back the release date. Six months later it was announced that the film would be re-digitized for IMAX and finally see the light of day on January 24, 2014.
After at least a dozen theatrical viewings of the trailer, the idea of a Frankenstein monster wreaking havoc on modern day London oddly appealed to me. With the exception of one or two scenes, the film looks to have been shot in the CG (cobalt gray?) ravages of post-WWII Berlin. There’s not a civilian in sight!
The first ten minutes had me convinced I was watching a sequel. The opening credit encapsulation of the creation of the monster plays like a recap from a previous feature. Either that, or in the time it took to for the digital bump-up, they went back and did a little trimming.
After centuries spent battling anonymous creatures, Frank Jr. finds himself in the middle of a gut-busting, mother-loving confrontation between two warring factions, the gargoyles and the demons. Fanboy sweetheart Aaron “Two-face” Eckhart is called upon to don another grisly guise — minus the green veneer and matching collar bolts — and roughhouse in the company of gargoyles. He’s nicknamed “Adam” by Lenore (Miranda Otto), the High Queen of the gargoyle order, blessed with a regal flair for dispensing backstory and exposition.
Somewhere in another part of England are housed an army of demon corpses ready to be re-animated at the touch of a button. The gargoyles are bivouacked on the far, far outskirts of London in the candlelit Notre Dame Cathedral. (More than 200 years in the planning and these critters have yet to discover the miracle of electricity.)
I worship Bill Nighy far too much to shit on his steely-eyed, jaw-stretching walk through as the demon prince/capitalist big wheel, Nabeus. Nighy has served cinema well with outstanding performances in dozens of smaller pictures. Let him enjoy another big payday. Eckhart, an old hand at this type of graphic novel grime, makes no attempt to sound or act like a 200-year-old melange of spare body parts found lying around the lab.
Final verdict: I, Frankenstein 3D, you out $13.50.