At some point during "I, Frankenstein's" seemingly endless runtime, the monster, now renamed Adam and sporting the chiseled good looks of "Dark Knight" actor Aaron Eckhart, remarks, somewhat offhandedly, that he's made up of "a dozen used parts from eight different corpses." Now, like a lot of the hooey in "I, Frankenstein," this is never explained (seriously, never), but it was enough to get us thinking about the different parts and pieces that make up "I, Frankenstein," because, for all of its talk about being a bold reinterpretation of Mary Shelley's classic tale, it feels more like a hodgepodge of various influences, references, and sometimes outright theft.
In "I, Frankenstein," the creature is forced to team up with a plucky, gorgeous scientist (Yvonne Strahovski from TV's "Chuck") and a bunch of grumpy gargoyles (led by Miranda Otto and including handsome blank Jai Courtney) to stop an evil billionaire demon prince (Bill Nighy) from triggering the apocalypse using Frankenstein-ian technology. As you can probably tell from that plot description, which includes the words "gargoyles" and "evil billionaire demon prince," there's a whole lot going on.
Behold, the parts that make up "I, Frankenstein's" monster. Watch out for spoilers -- if that's something you're really worried about.
The most obvious thing "I, Frankenstein" takes from is 1931's Universal horror classic "Frankenstein." A character utters the iconic, "It's alive, it's alive!" phrase and, while Aaron Eckhart doesn't rock a square head or bolts in his neck (both designs copyrighted and fiercely protected by Universal), the general mood and atmosphere owes a great debt to both James Whale's movie and Boris Karloff's immortal undead creation.
"Van Helsing" (2004)
In 2004, Universal tried to resurrect many of its most iconic monsters in the same hellzapoppin' style as their insanely popular "Mummy" reboot. To that end, they hired "Mummy" writer/director Stephen Sommers and probably instructed him to "go nuts." The resulting monster mash turned out to not be a graveyard smash, but it was an endless smorgasbord of insane action set pieces and misguided attempts at humor (anchored by Hugh Jackman, as the sexiest Vatican-approved monster hunter the world has ever known). The plot of "Van Helsing," as much as there is one, closely resembles "I, Frankenstein," wherein Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), instead of whatever the hell Bill Nighy is, attempts to create a race of evil beasts using Frankenstein technology. Instead of gargoyles, growling werewolves populates "Van Helsing." So there is that difference.
When the trailers for "I, Frankenstein" started popping up and it proudly proclaimed "from the producers of 'Underworld,'" there might as well just have been a title card that said, in a big blocky font, "DUH." "I, Frankenstein" shares that film's blue-grey color palette and mixture of ancient mythology and modern technology, which is a lot less interesting than it initially seems (in both properties). It also shares a wonderful costar in Bill Nighy. Why do high-concept action-horror movies have to look so dour? Is color another way to defeat an undead creature of the night?
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (TV series, 1997-2003)
There are a lot of demons in "I, Frankenstein" (a lot) and most of the time they just look like boring dudes in suits. But when they show their true demonic form, they just look like boring dudes in rubber masks that look exactly like a B-grade demon-of-the-week from Joss Whedon's beloved cult television series. For a movie that spent so much time and tens of millions of dollar conjuring all sorts of otherworldly beasts, to have the movie's main bad guys be waxy Halloween mannequins.
"Gargoyles" (TV series, 1994-1997)
Speaking of cult television series, "I, Frankenstein" also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Disney afternoon series "Gargoyles," which involved some kind of pseudo-Celtic lore about gargoyles who fought in ancient times but were banished to stone embodiments of their former selves. A magical curse was placed upon them so that they wouldn't live again until they were transported "above the clouds." Cut to a few hundred years later and a wealthy industrialist (not unlike Bill Nighy's character) brings them back to life when he places them atop his moon-scraping high rise. The imagery from the television series is brought vividly to life in "I, Frankenstein," without anyone having to pay for the licensing rights. Zounds!
"The Fountain" (2006)
This reference is a little harder to spot and was only apparent to me because I have no friends and am generally unloved -- there's a moment when the creature descends a set of staircases and the musical cue (by the usually reliable Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil) is a direct lift of a similar cue by Clint Mansell from Darren Aronofsky's misunderstood sci-fi epic "The Fountain." There are maybe a couple of notes that are different, but it's eerily similar.
"The Dark Knight" (2008)
Remember how Aaron Eckhart was in Christopher Nolan's blockbuster "The Dark Knight?" So does Aaron Eckhart! And so do the filmmakers behind "I, Frankenstein." In that movie, Eckhart played second banana bad guy Two Face, but in "I, Frankenstein" he gets to appropriate Christian Bale's distinctive growl, and the way that he stomps around all over the place in unnecessarily torturous slow motion (at first I thought it was the filmmakers' attempt to give the character some extra weight and heft, but then I realized they were trying to make him look extra cool). Eckhart also gets to sulk around vaguely bombed-out urban landscapes and engage in a torturous, one-sided relationship with a beautiful young woman.