Saturday, 29 October 2016

I, Franky

From the diurnal cycle and circadian rhythms comes our human penchant for redoing everything, including meal times, sleeping patterns, and varied anniversaries. If the zeitgebers of chrono-biology control social behaviours and genetics, why not also include psychology, language, culture, and the fields of art and entertainment? Yes, it’s only the illusion of freewill that is driving filmmakers to remake movies. Whether the projects are seemingly chosen as personal favourites, now deemed worthy of revision; neglected classics apparently in need of updating for the modernist pulse of zeitgeist concerns; or simply a money-raking spin-doctoring of re-scripted themes; it often feels like over a century of genre cinema means everything new is just a rehash of something else. The differences between before and after, and between the recent past and the near futures, appear to closing faster than ever.

A decade after the super-heroics of Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing, here’s Stuart Beattie’s I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014), with its urban- gothic/ modern fantasy of stoical demon-bashing by the patchwork immortal without a soul. If the comicbook-derived Hellboy can succeed as a monster hunter/ slayer following the super-team model, this franchistein variant of the wandering loner and killer seems eager to please as a ‘hell-bloke’ made good. Zombie champion Adam (Aaron Eckhart) is recruited by the sometimes stony-faced matriarch Leonore (Miranda Otto, War Of The Worlds remake, Eowyn in Lord Of The Rings sequels), the angelic queen of a righteous order of gargoyle vigilantes occupying a besieged cathedral.

Adam Frankenstein - as our hero becomes known, is being targeted for experiments by demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy, doing his level best not to look bored here), conducted in secret labs by a human-pet scientist named Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski, co-star of TV’s Chuck), whose re-animation research is destined to enable Nab’s army, ready for possession apocalypse. 

When evil plans to win the eternal war erupt into fiery battles on the night-city streets, at least the spectacular visual effects provide us with a welcome break from the most horrendously clich├ęd dialogue scenes of mouldy-prune comicbook-styling we have seen for many a cyclical year. On paper, it looks less like storytelling and more like free-gift origami tat.

I cannot honestly say that I, Frankenstein is essential viewing, even for the most dedicated followers of cinematic fashion, but with its displays of overly commercialised awfulness this is a bizarre treat to behold, and I laughed like a drain at its charismatic authority figures, and its audacious monomythic depiction of Adam as Campbellian hero (not with a thousand faces, but one obviously stitched together from umpteen others). Watch it and chortle with delight, or sigh in disappointment. The choice might well appear to be yours... but I suspect it probably isn’t.

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