Even with its relentlessly cliched production design (trenchcoats and flickering candles galore), this raucous gothic thriller deploys enough visual flash to hold our attention. The gigantic effects-heavy action sequences are eye-catching and sometimes exciting, and there are elements of the story that almost begin to resonate before the script veers off in another more simplistic direction.
Based on a graphic novel, the story picks up where Mary Shelley's novel left off, as the monster (Eckhart) is attacked by demons that want to study his non-human existence. He's rescued by gargoyles, angelic protectors of humanity, and taken to their Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who names him Adam and enlists him in the demon-killing cause. Although her second-in-command (Courtney) isn't so sure. Over the next 200 years, Adam hones his skills before returning to Lenore just as the demon Prince Naberius (Nighy) is launching his evil plan to re-animate a dead army with the help of sexy scientist Terra (Strahovski) and Dr Frankenstein's journal. In other words, all hell is about to break loose.
Annoyingly, every time the plot begins to get interesting, writer-director Beattie indulges in another vacuous action set piece that's as irrelevant as the 3D. There's a decent story in here about the nature of the human soul, religious fervour and moral tenacity, but the film only uses these things as devices to make the dialog sound intelligent. Which is tricky since Beattie directs his cast to deliver their lines in growling, blurting monotone. Eckhart's voice-over narration is particularly dull. And this over-earnest tone leaves every potential relationship as a non-starter.
That said, all of the cast members have enough spark to keep us watching. Strahovski has a lot of presence on-camera, which will hopefully someday hit the mark in a better movie than this. Nighy is always good value, while Otto has her moments. And Courtney at least has that brooding hunk thing down pat, although he needs to start doing something with it soon. But it's the relentlessly trite imagery that ultimately wears us down. Clearly, Beattie's only instruction to the production designer was to go heavy on the murkiness. And even though the action scenes are whizzy, they aren't hugely coherent. So by the end, the film is as corny as we expected it to be. And nothing more.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th January 2014
Box Office USA: $19.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $71.2M
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films
Production compaines: Lakeshore Entertainment, Hopscotch Films, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Lionsgate
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 3%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 83
IMDB: 5.2 / 10
Director: Stuart Beattie
Screenwriter: Stuart Beattie
Starring: Aaron Eckhart as Adam, Yvonne Strahovski as Terra, Bill Nighy as Naberius, Jai Courtney as Gideon, Miranda Otto as Leonore, Caitlin Stasey as Keziah, Kevin Grevioux as Dekar, Aden Young as Dr. Frankenstein, Deniz Akdeniz as Barachel, Chris Pang as Levi, Socratis Otto as Zuriel, Steve Mouzakis as Helek, Bruce Spence as Molokai, Mahesh Jadu as Ophir