Tagged: Gothic

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 – Dark Shadows (2012)

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz

Dark ShadowsI was once a big Tim Burton fan and still have a soft spot for him in my heart, but I must admit that in recent years I approach every new Burton film with a great deal of cautiousness. Despite being one of the best known directors in Hollywood today, Tim Burton hasn’t quite been on song in the last decade. After making some really original and brilliant movies in the 1990s (Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Ed Wood), in recent years his movies tend to have underwhelmed. Movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland didn’t really need to be seen because they were exactly what you imagined when you first read that Tim Burton was going to make them. There wasn’t a surprise. While Dark Shadows doesn’t really see Burton breaking any new ground – which will be fine by his many fans, but frustrating to those growing tired of the usual Burton/Depp shtick – it does prove to be a bit of a return to form.

An adaptation of a cult 1960s supernatural soap opera, Dark Shadows is the latest in the line of recent Burton adaptations and re-imaginings following on from Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sweeney Todd. The film follows the story of Barnabas Collins, a vampire whom having been buried alive for almost 200 years is dug up in 1972 and sets about trying to restore his family’s seafood business to its former glory after it has been run into the ground by business rival Angelique, who also happens to be the witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire.

Burton and Depp were both great fans of the series in their youth, so unlike some of the other adaptations which feel like they’ve just applied the Tim Burton formula to a pre-existing story, in this case the affection they clearly have for the source material really comes across. The contrast between the garish sights and sounds of the 1970s and the more gothic elements of the story really plays to Burton’s style, which has always been a mix of gothic and kitsch. Depp plays Barnabas as an old-fashioned, Romantic-era vampire, and much comedy is drawn from Barnabas struggling to get his head around 1970s culture. Dark Shadows is easily Burton’s funniest film since Ed Wood, possibly ever.

For someone who was getting used to being disappointed with Tim Burton’s films, Dark Shadows was a pleasant surprise. This is not Tim Burton at his absolute best, but it is as close as he’s been for a number of years.

Rating – ★★★★

Review by Duncan McLean