Tag Archives: Caitlin Stasey

Movie Review: I, Frankenstein (2014)

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I, Frankenstein, or as I liked to call it, I, Frankly-can’t-believe-Aaron-Eckhart-trained-6-months-for-this-shit, is already looking like a lock on my “worst films” list for 2014.

I knew it was not going to be a graphic-novel-to-film masterpiece, but I also had hopes that it would at least provide some solid popcorn entertainment. After all, Aaron Eckhart’s career trajectory has been on quite the upswing the last few years, and even though he’s made some questionable choices (such as Battle: Los Angeles, The Rum Diary and Olympus Has Fallen) over this period, none of his films have flat out sucked saggy scrotums — until now.

This should hardly come as a surprise. It’s hard enough to make a film about Mary Shelley’s classic novel (and we’ve seen some bad adaptations over the years). A film based on a comic that “re-imagines” that classic novel doesn’t really stand a chance. I, Frankenstein makes Van Helsing look clever.

The premise is this. Imagine if Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was not a novel but based on real events. Then imagine that Frankenstein’s monster, who is immortal, lives on after the events in the book for a couple of hundred years until the present day, and in the meantime learns to be a super awesome demon-fighting warrior. That’s basically it. Well, there’s actually also this long and convoluted back story about a secret war between gargoyles and demons, who want Frankenstein’s monster to unleash the secret to reanimating an army of corpses. I won’t lie; I was confused.

Anyhoo, the first problem with I, Frankenstein, apart from the silly plot, is that it’s kinda boring. Aaron Eckhart certainly tries, though the characters and the dialogue are so trite that it feels like watching bad cut scenes from a late 90s video game. They could have made light of the whole thing and turned it into a semi-comedy fuelled by sharp, witty comments, but everyone in it, including Eckhart, takes themselves so dead seriously that it saps all the fun out of the movie.

The second problem is that for a movie that depends on action to be watchable, the action sequences in I, Frankenstein are over-the-top (in a bad way) and lacking in creativity. Worst of all it’s all destroyed by extremely fake computer graphics that also remind me of late 90s video games. The gargoyles and demons looked like they were cut straight from an animated film and looked unrealistic even amid all the darkness and chaos.

Thirdly, turning Frankenstein’s monster into a superhero just doesn’t feel right. He’s supposed to be hideous — stitched up crudely from an assortment of corpses — but instead we get the chiselled features of Aaron Eckhart and his incredibly ripped body with a few lame scars across his face and body. It’s almost blasphemous.

Speaking of Aaron Eckhart, I was appalled to learn that he trained 6 months for the role. He worked out daily, trained in Parkour and Kali stick fighting and followed a strict diet, all so he could have a about 2 minutes of extremely average-looking fight sequences plus 3 seconds of a topless shot. You can’t fault the dude for his dedication, but boy, it’s hard to envisage a bigger waste of time than that.

All the other performances from a cast dominated by Aussies were fairly uninspired. Bill Nighy plays the villain, and you can tell he’s happy with the cheque but not having much fun. Yvonne Strahovski from Dexter plays a scientist and love interest, while Jai Courtney, Miranda Otto and Caitlin Stasey (from Tomorrow, When the War Began) play gargoyles. Everyone looks embarrassed to be there.

The only positive I can point out is that the film was made in Melbourne, which I suppose demonstrates that Australia is capable of making a relatively major Hollywood blockbuster. It’s just unfortunate that the film they ended up making was I, Frankenstein.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010)

To be honest, I had never heard of the bestselling Tomorrow series (total of 7 bookss) by John Marsden until the film of the first book, Tomorrow, When the War Began, started making waves in the headlines.  I was intrigued by the teaser poster, which has a girl with her back turned, looking out into the vast, empty plains.  It gave me the feeling that this was going to be a promising blockbuster, and I was utterly shocked when I discovered that it was Australian.

Anyway, I went and checked it out over the weekend, harbouring some moderate expectations.  And I am glad to say, at a basic level, the film delivered — an intriguing story, teenage angst, and a fair amount of action.  While it was clearly not at the level of most Hollywood blockbusters, with a budget of just $20 million, I think Tomorrow, When the War Began was a solid domestic effort.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about a bunch of teenagers from a small Australian country town that decide to go camping, and while they are away, Australia is invaded by an unknown foreign enemy.  How will they respond?  Will they hide, or will they fight back?  (I think we all know the answer).

The film is written and directed by Stuart Beattie, who worked on 30 Days of Night, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Australia and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. As Marsden’s book was first published in 1993, several changes were required to make this a ‘modern’ adaptation.  I haven’t read the book yet (recently bought a copy), but from what I have heard the film is quite faithful to the original source.

What I enjoyed about the movie was that it was, for the most part, pretty entertaining.  There’s nothing like a story about a bunch of average youngsters of various backgrounds and personalities who find themselves tossed into a perilous situation and must band together to overcome their prejudices and weaknesses in order to give themselves a chance to become heroes.  We’ve seen it done before plenty of times, but for me, it never gets old, as long as it is well executed.

Yes, most of the stuff that happens in the film beggars belief, but it didn’t bother me at all.  I accepted the gaps in logic and just went along for the ride.  Even though there were very few surprises throughout the film, I still found many sequences to be tense and exciting.

And of course, we’ve got quite a cast of stereotypical characters — the strong, independent protagonist Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), the naive but loyal best friend Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), the local bad boy Homer (Deniz Akdeniz) the wimpy jock Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), the dumb blonde Fi (Phoebe Tonkin), the token hardworking Asian Lee (Chris Pang), the token religious freak Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings), and the token stoner Chris (Andy Ryan).

I didn’t have a big problem with the characters themselves, but it pains me to say that the acting from the young cast was somewhat uneven.  Without naming names, I will simply say that some of the acting was cringeworthy (though the majority of it was passable).  Again, I can’t discuss the book as I haven’t read it yet, but I would put some of the blame on the dialogue.  Corny?  Yes.  Realistic?  Not even close.  The interactions between some of the characters also felt strained and unnatural.  I could see what they were aiming for but they couldn’t quite pull it off.

So that was my impression of Tomorrow, When the War Began.  A solid Aussie action flick (gosh there are so few of them), but ultimately nothing special.  Nevertheless, the film has been doing very well across Australia and New Zealand, which means sequels could be forthcoming.  If so, let’s hope they can turn it up another notch.

3.5 stars out of 5

(A couple of nice touches in the film were the little jokes about the book and the subtle references to Australia’s invasive past)