Sunday, December 1, 2013

Frankenstein, the Action Hero!

Judging by its box-office receipts, everyone went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in the past two weeks. If so, that loud noise you heard from outside the cinema during the previews was the sound of Mary Shelley turning over in her grave.

Behold, the trailer for I, Frankenstein!

Frankenstein, the action-hero.

Really? Is this the evolution of the-bottom-dollar-justifies-it-all mentality? Have Hollywood executives drunk on heady commercial projections from business models, not felt the slightest tinge of remorse in converting Shelley's self-loathing, tortured monster (guilt-ridden as much by his physical grotesqueness as the terror he notices in the eyes of those who see him) - into a muscled, leaping-into-the-air-with-fiery-explosions-behind-him action hero caricature?

It is one thing to plunder the graves of film, television and written classics (and sometimes not-quite-classics) to remake/re-boot/re-whatever a new version for current moviegoers. But it is quite another to bludgeon an early work of seminal literary relevance (in this case, horror) into a jaw-droppingly banal action trope. Watch Frankenstein beat up droves of CGI alien creatures. Watch Frankenstein demonstrate martial arts prowess mid-air, his cape fluttering with expensive art direction. Watch Frankenstein break chains and leap onto roofs of speeding subway trains [Watch also, by the way, Bill Nighy sheepishly pick up a paycheck]. Watch Frankenstein stare into the eyes of his female love interest as things burn in the background. Having made good use of his annual 24-Hour Fitness membership, this Frankenstein is clearly not one to be tortured by his physical grotesqueness. This is Frankenstein by way of recent physically beefed-up cinematic avatars of literary brothers Sherlock Holmes and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer.

I am quite aware of just how righteously indignant I sound. But I would be thrilled to discover that I have been abjectly wrong on this: that this trailer does the actual film shameful disservice, and that come February we will be surprised to watch a clever and entertaining movie. Until then forgive me while I snicker every time I watch this trailer.

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