As the most recent cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein,” the new CGI-heavy action movie “I, Frankenstein,” according to the film’s star Aaron Eckhart, isn’t easily comparable to any previous version of the narrative. In the film, Eckhart, best known as Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent/Two-Face in 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” plays Adam, the newest take on Frankenstein’s monster, which was made most famous by actor Boris Karloff in the 1931 film “Frankenstein.” In “I, Frankenstein,” Eckhart’s Adam is placed at the center of an all-out war between computer-generated gargoyles and demons 200 years after his maker, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, jolts him to life during an unearthly experiment.
During a phone interview last week, Eckhart, 45, spoke to me about his role as Frankenstein’s monster and where he falls in the long history of the literary character.
What do you think makes a good monster in a monster movie these days? Is it interesting enough to have something smash things up like Godzilla or do you need a creature that actually has some sort of conscience and understanding of its relationship to the world?
I think a conscience is the best because you’re not only being entertained, but you’re learning something. I think using universal themes is best because we can more easily relate it to ourselves. That is important. Theater and cinema is all about telling stories and passing lessons on to folks. If I was to do anything, I would hope there was a message in that movie to make it better.
Since there is such a long literary history behind the Frankenstein story – and because it’s been adapted into films so many times before – does that put added pressure on you as an actor to live up to the spirit of that story or would you rather “I, Frankenstein” stand alone?
Well, only if you go on Twitter. If you go on Twitter it’s tough. Everybody has their opinions. Our movie moves so far away from any cinematic version of “Frankenstein.” It wasn’t a big question in my mind. People love their literary and historic characters. They have a right to. They don’t want them to be messed with. I’m sure people are going to have a lot to say about this one.
Adam is technically the first monster you’ve ever played in a film, but he’s not the first monstrous character. Who would you say from your past roles is even scarier than Adam? Would it be someone like Chad from “In the Company of Men?”
Yeah, definitely. The monster in “Frankenstein” is looking for love. He wants to be accepted and to fit in. Chad from “In the Company of Men” has no intentions of fitting in. He’s basically a sociopath, so I think he’s definitely more dangerous.