THIS monotonous B-movie has only the loosest connection with any previous Frankenstein film, let alone Mary Shelley’s original novel. Written and directed by Australia’s Stuart Beattie – adapting a comic book by Kevin Grevioux, creator of the Underworld franchise – it’s a blissfully incoherent Gothic action-fantasy, a genre which another Australian director, Alex Proyas, more or less invented in the 1990s with Dark City and The Crow.
An Australian-US co-production shot in Melbourne, the film is set in a nameless, stateless metropolis, where cathedrals and abandoned warehouses abound and everything is mysteriously bathed in deep blue light. Only in occasional, uncanny moments – when someone uses an iPhone, or gets off a tram – does this world appear to intersect in any way with our own.
Centuries after his creation, Frankenstein’s monster – played by Aaron Eckhart, blandly handsome beneath his prosthetic scars – has become embroiled in an ancient war between noble gargoyles and evil winged demons, waged above the heads of humankind. Both sides are searching for Victor Frankenstein’s original journal, which contains the secret of bringing the dead to life, enabling the demons to create a race of possessed zombies and thus conquer the world.
Beattie has neither the talent nor the budget to match Proyas visually. The demons, when slain, have a trick of erupting in fiery swirls and then collapsing into shards; Beattie must be fond of this effect, since he uses it in every second scene.
As far as acting is concerned, the film belongs by default to Bill Nighy, doing his Bill Nighy thing as a demon who poses as a mad scientist: a raised eyebrow here, a suggestive pause there. There’s a fine line between making a performance look effortless and simply putting in no effort, but it’s pleasant to catch up with Nighy at any time – especially when he’s sharing the screen with the equally lanky and eccentric Bruce Spence.