Mary Shelley, author of the classic 19th-century novel Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, must be rolling in her grave. In the new I, Frankenstein, hunky Aaron Eckhart is oddly cast as Dr. Victor Frankenstein's brutish creature. He isn't a monster so much as a dour, angsty dude. No flattop or neck-bolts for him, just abs to die for and a cloak and scowl fit for one of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies. Despite the Matrix-esque battles he engages in, this riff on the Frankenstein mythos is dead on arrival.
Based on Kevin Grevioux's graphic novel and produced by the group behind the Underworld films, I, Frankenstein has a weird pace that may make you feel like you're on a Tilt-a-Whirl. Writer-director Stuart Beattie crams in leaden exposition and over-choreographed CGI set-pieces, and he and his cast adopt way too serious a tone. The only exception comes from Bill Nighy, who delivers a minuscule portion of fun as a fallen angel.
The story begins where Shelley left off, with the creature's creator, Dr. Frankenstein, perishing in the Arctic. After hastily burying the doctor, the pensive, joyless creature, Adam, becomes a pawn in a multi-century war between heaven and hell. Miranda Otto is the queen of the angelic gargoyles, and Nighy leads a gang of demons. Both sides are after the doctor's diary, which, we are told, would be of great use to the hellion side since Nighy's corporate demon-in-disguise is amassing corpses to create an undead army.
Yvonne Strahovski from the TV show Chuck turns up as a scientist unwittingly assisting the nefarious Nighy. She fills the requisite love-interest slot without getting much loving from Adam, who has evolved into a stoic loner.
Old-school horror fans will recognize allusions to 1958's Frankenstein 1970 and Terence Fisher's Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, which debuted in 1969. Unfortunately, I, Frankenstein is not nearly as amusing as those films. Then again, it's not as garishly awful as Van Helsing, Universal Studios' previous attempt at resurrecting its classic monsters.