Film Review: I, Frankenstein 3D

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29 July 2014.

I, try to make an effort to support the Australian film industry. In the case of I, Frankenstein, it’s more like an overseas production that just happened to be shot in Melbourne. Sure, besides import stars Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy, the production employed 500 locals including director Stuart Beattie, but from a creative perspective, it’s like trying to claim Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith as Australian movies. There’s a big difference between an Australian film and one that’s simply shot in Australia.

I, Frankenstein is based on a graphic novel and comes from the mind of Kevin Grevioux, creator of the Underworld franchise, except this time, it’s Demons versus Gargoyles. There was some talk of a crossover between the two worlds but it may have been a little difficult to explain the presence of Bill Nighy as the antagonist in both films, but as different characters.

Charles Wessex (Nighy) is the leader of the Demons, bent on finding the secret of reanimating human corpses so that the demon souls of the underworld (not that Underworld) can return to earth. His target is Adam (Eckhart) the two hundred year old living result of a successful experiment by one Victor Frankenstein. Siding with the good Gargoyles and their queen (Miranda Otto), Adam fights for the future of, um, Melbourne alongside the warrior (Jai Courtney) and beautiful scientist, in a Tara Reid kinda way, Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski).

Post-converted into 3D, the action scenes are competent but nothing new. To keep the blood letting to a minimum, the Demons explode into flame when destroyed. No green screen in Melbourne was safe during the production, with many, many CGI heavy scenes. Only a few physical landmarks are recognisable in the final product, with the National Gallery of Victoria doubling for Central Station. Otherwise, it’s the same dark european type gothic city as depicted so often in these types of films.

Plot holes abound, from the sublime (the bizarre title – I guess Frankenstein is his surname) to the ridiculous (Frankenstein’s two hundred year old diary is in mint condition). Bad guys fully explain their devious plans to a temporarily subdued Adam, sixties Batman style. The human population don’t appear to notice the explosions and chaos around them.

The serious performances from the cast don’t match the silliness of the film. Nighy is at his scenery chewing best. Eckhart and Courtney growl their dialogue. Otto looks bored. Both Aden Young and Bruce Spence are wasted in cameo roles. Strahovski is radiant but I like everything she does.

The most successful element of the film is the art design. The gothic towers, industrial battlegrounds and derelict buildings are quite beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s all been done before.

With a disappointing box office return, don’t expect any sequels. I, am OK with that.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:59  Leave a Comment  
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The Upcoming Year in Musicals

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29th December 2009.

Musical theatre fans have plenty to look forward to next year. With a few old favourites returning plus the Australian premiere of two exciting new productions, there is something for everyone, limited only by your budget.

For those who like to travel, there are many incentives to wander down south to Melbourne in 2010. Jersey Boys, the supremely entertaining jukebox musical based on the life and careers of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, continues to wow audiences at the Princess Theatre and most likely will not make the transfer to Sydney until 2011.

Mary Poppins, presented by musical theatre juggernaut, Cameron Mackintosh, and little known film production company, Disney, will make its Australian premiere in July at Her Majesty’s Theatre. With songs drawn from the 1964 Disney film, the storyline will follow the darker source material of P.L. Travers book. Starring Debra Byrne, Marina Prior, Philip Quast , Judi Connelli and So You Think You Can Dance judge Matt Lee as Bert (let’s hope his Cockney accent is better than Dick Van Dyke’s), the iconic titular role is yet to be cast. Trivia buffs will be interested to know that P.L. Travers, an Australian, hated the Disney film and stipulated in her will that only English born writers were to be involved in the creative process of adapting the movie for the stage.

Also making its Australian premiere in Melbourne will be The Drowsy Chaperone, winner of 5 Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Original Score and Best Book. Starring Geoffrey Rush and Rhonda Burchmore, it will have a limited engagement from January.

Sydney will also have its fair share of touring and long stay musicals next year. Wicked will continue its open ended run at the Capitol Theatre and the national tour of Mamma Mia will finish up at the Lyric Theatre in February.

Sydney Theatre Company will produce the Australian Premiere of Spring Awakening in February. With music by 90’s pop star Duncan Sheik, the alternative rock musical is set in late-nineteenth century Germany and focuses on a group of teenagers coming to grips, so to speak, with their sexuality. Winning 8 Tony Awards in 2007, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, this controversial production is certainly not family friendly. Glee fans will be interested to know that Lea Michele (who plays Rachel Berry) starred in the original Broadway production.

Perennial musical favourites Cats and West Side Story will tour Australia next year. The Sydney season of Cats will open in May. This international touring production will certainly be dwarfed inside the cavernous Lyric Theatre but is sure to delight audiences of all ages. Following numerous Australian runs, 18 years on Broadway, 21 years in the West End and a local production by Orange Theatre Co in 2007, Cats definitely has nine lives.

West Side Story hits the Lyric Theatre at Star City in July (let’s hope it doesn’t leave its kids in the car). This seminal American musical, featuring timeless music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, will be choreographed by Joey McKneeley, who was personally chosen by original choreographer Jerome Robbins to recreate his steps. Auditions are now underway for Australian performers to join the cast.

Locally, audiences will also have a feast of shows to enjoy with Dusty The Original Pop Diva, Rent and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee all scheduled to be performed at the Orange Civic Theatre as part of the 2010 Subscription Season.

 As a lover of musicals, and with a trip to the West End also planned, 2010 is going to be a busy, and expensive, year for me.

Published in: on January 3, 2010 at 01:28  Leave a Comment  
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