While I, Frankenstein director/writer Stuart Beattie and stars Aaron Eckhart and Yvonne Strahovski have been spruiking the film in the US media this week, some commentators are dubious about its B.O. prospects.
The Melbourne-shot 3D action-thriller, which launches in the US on Friday on 2,700 screens, stars Eckhart as Frankenstein’s reanimated corpse who battles vicious gargoyles and other demons in the 21st Century.
Screen Rant’s Chris Agar predicts the Lionsgate release (which opens here on March 20) will debut in third place behind the second weekend of buddy cop comedy Ride Along and the fifth frame of Peter Berg’s war drama Lone Survivor.
Coming Soon’s Edward Douglas, who hasn’t seen the monster pic, expects it will earn just $US17.3 million in the first weekend and wind up with less than $50 million. That would be a poor return for a production which Beattie says was budgeted at $36 million.
“Unfortunately, this movie just looks like too many other movies in a trend that's slowly dying, and it just doesn't have the same "fun factor" as last year's Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, so it probably doesn't have much of a chance against the one-two Universal punch of Ride Along and Lone Survivor,” Douglas opines.
The Los Angeles Times is even more pessimistic, projecting an opening of $12 million-$14 million, quoting un-named people who had seen pre-release audience surveys.
Douglas notes Eckhart appeared in the hits The Dark Knight, Battle: Los Angeles and Olympus Has Fallen but surmises, “It might be a bit harder to believe him as a gargoyle-fighting monster, but clearly, this is trying to appeal to a certain younger male audience that is looking for something a little more escapist and different than what's in theatres.”
Agar detects little buzz about the film in the US and claims the trailers and TV spots “have failed at making the movie look like an appealing option. I, Frankenstein could find a niche audience this weekend, but it won’t be a mainstream hit.”
Before he’d seen the film, Cinema Blend pundit Doug Norrie speculated, “Working the "deep" idea of Frankenstein to be a "human" fighting against inhuman forces of evil is along the same thought path that ended up with Abraham Lincoln killing vampires. What appears to ensue is a mess of contrived action and canned dialogue with Eckhart doing an action star impression to diminishing returns.”
It’s the second directing turn for Beattie following Tomorrow, When the War Began, which screened at just 10 cinemas in the US. Beattie is an accomplished screenwriter with credits including Collateral, Australia, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
I, Frankenstein is based on the Darkstorm Studios graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, who also created the Underworld franchise. The cast includes Aussie Strahovski as an electro-physiologist who tries to use electricity to resurrect dead flesh, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney and Aden Young as Victor Frankenstein.
Led by visual effects supervisor Rangi Sutton, Cutting Edge delivered 116 VFX shots for the film.
Beattie told Screen Rant, “We were a $36 million budget, we had nine weeks to shoot the film; we just didn’t have the time or the money to make gigantic creatures and really go “Lord of The Rings.” In a way we were a very small film for this kind of scope and this kind of ambition. So the most we could do was get cool prosthetics on these guys, but there’s a whole hierarchy the more you think up as you develop [them] – the whole hierarchy of demons from the warriors to the dukes to the lords to the princes.”
He’s hopeful there will be a sequel. The chances of that will be clearer when Lionsgate digests this weekend’s figures.