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I, Frankenstein

Year: 2014
Production Co: Hopscotch Films
Director: Stuart Beattie
Writer: Stuart Beattie
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtenay, Bill Nighy, Aden Young, Bruce Spence

As an Aussie, Stuart Beattie was a bit inspiring when he made it to the big leagues of A list Hollywood blockbuster screenwriters. He burst onto the scene with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and was suddenly churning out scripts for Michael Mann's Collateral and a bunch of others.

His big early screenplays weren't by any means those of a hack, but most of his work was in very middle of the road commercial films, so it's not really surprising most of his directorial efforts have been on the plain side. Tomorrow, When the War Began was pretty pants, and when I, Frankenstein came out the vibe around it was just like that of his countryman Alex Proyas for the universally panned Gods of Egypt.

Surprisingly I, Frankenstein isn't as woeful as you fear. It's not great – probably not even good – but it's got a perfectly workable concept and perfectly serviceable effects and action for what looked like a modest budget.

A roll call of Aussie talent rallied behind him (and probably wish they could expunge it from their records now) for the Melbourne-set shoot, and the result is neither original nor very thrilling, fairly derivative of other movies (Underworld, for one) but as I said, it's not incoherent, dumb, badly acted or anything else you fear it will be.

Centuries after taking revenge on his creator, Viktor Frankenstein, the monster (What made Beattie think Aaron Eckhart would make an effective Frankenstein is beyond me – he's not bad, he's just not Frankenstein's monster) wanders the streets of the big bad modern day city fighting and killing demons. After he laid his master to rest centuries before in the opening flashback, two angels rescued him from attacking demons and bring him to their queen (Miranda Otto) and her man-at-arms (Jai Courtney).

The kindly supernatural monarch explains that the forces of good and evil have made war for the souls of humans for centuries in the shadows, names him Adam, gives him weapons and asks him to join them. He declines, going his own way and spending the next few hundred years killing any of the creatures who pursue him.

It turns out a businessman (Bill Nighy, having fun but very much in cheque-collecting mode – see Underworld) interested in medical research is actually a demon prince hoping to unlock the secret that bought Adam back to life so he can reanimate tens of thousands of corpses in an underground vault and have them attack and overpower mankind to give him control of the Earth, so he needs Adam to figure out the reanimation process. Ridiculous? of course! But it makes sense in the context of the story and the story follows its own rules perfectly well.

When more attacks descend from the demon hordes, Adam has little choice but to team up with the queen's forces, befriending one of the human scientists (Yvonne Strahovski) who works for the demon prince. The dark hordes have to capture Adam, the light has to protect him, and Beattie proves the chops that got him some of the biggest writing gigs in the business – it's all about stakes and conflict.

It's not as dramatically wobbly as Tomorrow, When the War Began and contains as least professional actors who don't make a ropey script sounds worse than it is. It knows what it is, where it's pitching itself, and everyone's along for the ride. Lower your expectations of overall quality and you might go along with it too.

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