Tagged: Fantasy

Review – I, Frankenstein (2014)

Director: Stuart Beattie

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney

I, FrankensteinMary Shelley could never have seen this coming when she created one of the horror genre’s iconic characters back in 1818. In I, Frankenstein her creature becomes the latest classic to be reimagined for the screen via the graphic novel.

Having lived in secrecy for 200 years, Frankenstein’s monster, here named Adam, finds himself in the middle of a centuries old battle between demons and gargoyles. When a demon is killed its soul descends to hell and it can only return to Earth if it can find a living body without a soul. So Naberius, the leader of the demons, sees in Adam the secret to reanimating corpses into soulless vessels, and therefore the key to a potentially limitless army.

I, Frankenstein is the latest idea from the mind of Kevin Grevioux, the co-creator of the Underworld. That reasonably successful action/fantasy franchise concerned the ongoing war between vampires and werewolves, so I, Frankenstein is not so much a new idea as a variation on a theme. Between its effects heavy battle scenes, the movie labours through some truly ridiculous dialogue. At times this is the result of some poor writing, but largely it is because the premise of this film is such utter nonsense that when characters are forced to verbalise it they can’t help but sound ridiculous. And therein lies I, Frankenstein’s biggest problem. The film contains no acknowledgement of its ludicrousness, and therefore there is no sense of fun, humour or satire. Instead it takes itself far too seriously and it simply cannot afford to.

Turning Frankenstein’s monster into an action hero requires a stark reimaging of the famous character, so Aaron Eckhart’s monster bears little resemblance to Boris Karloff’s iconic lumbering giant. Eckhart has got himself in impressive shape for the role, so impressive in fact that in one scene in which he removes his shirt the creature even attracts a lustful double-take from Terra, the respected electrophysiologist who had been working for Naberius before she discovered his true identity. This version of the monster also does significantly more talking than any we’ve seen before. It might have made for a more interesting, if less action-packed, film if the monster was more traditional – a helpless innocent caught in the centre of this ongoing battle rather than a bad-ass butt-kicking machine.

The film closes with a voiceover from the creature in which he promises to go on fighting demons and protecting mankind, clearly setting itself up for a franchise. Fortunately I doubt we’ll ever see it. I, Frankenstein is an early contender for worst movie of the year.

Rating: ★

Review by Duncan McLean

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Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis

Hobbit - An Unexpected JourneyIt is fun to be back in Middle Earth and the world of The Lord of the Rings again. It is great to see Ian McKellen back as Gandalf. Andy Serkis again steals the show as Gollum. It is nice, if completely unnecessary, to see Elijah Wood as Frodo again. But be warned, Lord of the Rings this is not, which is unfortunate as it is not going to be able to avoid comparisons.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows the same narrative formula as The Lord of the Rings. Again we have a motley crew making their way across the countryside, encountering all manner of foe, on a journey to an ominous mountain. However, the problem for The Hobbit is that there just isn’t enough at stake in this story. In The Lord of the Rings you have these grand themes of good and evil at play, and the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of this small company on their mission. In The Hobbit we have a dozen dwarves who want their home and their gold back. It doesn’t quite compare. In The Lord of the Rings, they had no choice but to go on. In The Hobbit you feel like if things really got too hard they could just decide to give up and life would go on. The only times we get a sense of bigger themes at play are in scenes which point towards the events of the events of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The difference between the two is that The Lord of the Rings is a genuine epic, whereas The Hobbit is a rollicking adventure story. But in trying to maintain a consistent tone, Jackson is trying to force an epic tone on The Hobbit when he may have been better served to have a bit more fun with it. It is a children’s book after all.

As an aside, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the poster below and that of The Muppets which I hoped may have indicated an attempt to lighten it up a bit, but outside of a couple of moments, not really.

Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey1Muppets

Martin Freeman is very likeable as Bilbo Baggins and the better scenes in the film, for mine, feature him prominently, in particular the scene with the three trolls deciding how they will cook up the band of dwarves they capture, and, of course, Bilbo and Gollum’s game of riddles. Richard Armitage is strong and moody as Thorin, but with the exception of a couple you will have trouble differentiating between the dozen dwarves in the band. Unlike The Lord of the Rings where each member of the fellowship had a distinct persona, in this case they are largely interchangeable.

When it was first announced that The Hobbit was going to be made as a two part film, and then later revised to three parts, eyebrows were raised. When Jackson made The Lord of the Rings, he took an enormous work, which was already a trilogy, and had to be really selective in terms of what he included and what he left out in order to fit it into a trilogy of films. With The Hobbit Jackson has taken one book, which is significantly shorter than The Lord of the Rings, and has stretched it out to three films, and unfortunately that stretching shows. At 169 minutes, the issue with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not so much that it is long, but that it feels unnecessarily long. It feels stretched out. I can’t see there being a special extended edition DVD of this film because it is hard to believe Jackson has chosen to leave anything out. Anyone who found the last half hour of Return of the King frustratingly drawn out will find themselves infuriated by how long it takes An Unexpected Journey to get started. First there is a prologue of about 20 minutes which seems to have been put in there solely to get Elijah Wood back on screen as Frodo, and that is followed by another 20 minutes of dwarves arriving at Bag End. So you are about 45 minutes into An Unexpected Journey before the unexpected journey begins. I wouldn’t be surprised if, when the trilogy is finished, a competent reader could read Tolkien’s novel in less time than it would take to watch the trilogy back to back.

I didn’t get to see the film in 48 frames per second, but have heard mixed responses to that format. Apparently it is wonderful for the landscape shots, offering beautiful clarity, but that same clarity has a negative effect on costumes and make-up.

While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has copped a bit of flak from some critics, and doesn’t reach the heights of the incredibly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is not Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace by any stretch of the imagination. It feels a little drawn out, but once the story gets going there is a lot of fun to be had.

Rating – ★★☆

Review by Duncan McLean