'Franklyn' opens with a first act that is very confusing and somewhat difficult to follow. The first few minutes are spent trying to figure out the timeframe and era in which the characters exist and how exactly they're all related. Emilia and Milo appear to be living in the present, while Jonathan Preest exists in a fantastical and bizarre future. Naturally, it's all intentional -- a means to get our attention and create interest. Then again, it's also a way of disguising the fact that the film's premise is unoriginal, and at this point, the plot is rather uninspiring and less stimulating than it thinks itself to be. Still, it makes for an interesting film about the lives of four people intersecting in a unique way at the end.
Making his feature-film debut, Gerald McMorrow splits the storyline into four intertwining stories, seemingly exploring different levels of psychological turmoil. In a parallel reality, Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) is the masked vigilante of the monolithic metropolis Meanwhile City, where religious fervor has become the norm. Milo (Sam Riley) is living in contemporary London, trying to figure out a way to recoup after being dumped by his fiancée. Emilia (Eva Green) is a young suicidal art student, whose projects are increasingly becoming more disturbing and dangerous. Peter (Bernard Hill) is a religious man desperately searching for his wayward son within the tough streets of London.
In 'Franklyn', the director, who also wrote the screenplay, shows a great deal of imagination and creativity, particularly in the sequences involving Preest. It's a futuristic reality immersed and fashioned after a Gothic graphic novel.
Visually and conceptually, the film is arresting and engaging, and McMorrow deserves credit for doing an excellent job with a limited budget. But in terms of narrative and execution, 'Franklyn' has nothing new to say. Issues of fate, predestination, and the idea of blind faith are introduced throughout, but McMorrow only scratches the surface and never delves deeper. At one point, Preest fascinatingly ponders:
"If a god is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he is not omnipotent. If he is able but not willing, then he must be malevolent. If he is neither able nor willing, then why call him a god?"
By the time we reach the film's conclusion, we are left to wonder what relevance the inquiries even serve. Ironically, we are left asking how exactly the climax is the result of fate instead of convenient plot device.
Ultimately, the script is interesting and intricate, but it lacks development and a clean, coherent storyline. We never truly care for any of the characters or their individual dilemmas, let alone how they clash in the third act. Although the lives of these four strangers reach a satisfying intersection, we can't help but feel the journey there was exasperating and laborious. Despite actually liking 'Franklyn', I have to admit it's all a visual diversion but narratively dull.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Home Entertainment releases 'Franklyn' in a regular Blu-ray keepcase and slipcover featuring the three main protagonists. After a quick Image logo fills the entire screen, the disc goes straight to the main menu, showing full motion clips of the film along with an excerpt of the musical score.
'Franklyn' debuts with a glossy, highly-stylized picture that perfectly complements the film's narrative and subject matter. The freshly-minted 1080p/AVC transfer (2.35:1) displays great clarity, sharp details, and a color palette that's mostly restrained. Daylight sequences, however, show bold, vivid primaries while nighttime scenes exhibit exceptionally rich, inky blacks and strong delineation in the darkest shadows. Architectural nuances are clearly visible and precise, and facial complexions appear natural and accurate with wonderful lifelike texture. Contrast and brightness levels are also perfectly balanced and full-bodied, giving the image a nice depth of field. Intentional photography aside, the film looks great on Blu-ray.
Unlike the video, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is slightly underwhelming for a drama with so many fantasy elements. The lossless mix is generally front-heavy with infrequent and random activity in the rears. Discrete effects and directionality are in use and can be quite enveloping at times, but they lack consistency and never feel truly immersive or convincing.
Things aren't all bad, however, as the track exhibits an inviting, spacious quality and attractive imaging in the front soundstage. The mid-range is never really put to the test, but at least, it remains well balanced and sharp. Vocals are well-prioritized and intelligible while the low bass packs a heavy wallop, adding depth and oomph to sporadic action sequences. The musical score bleeds lightly into the background, becoming the only true moments of envelopment and keeping the audience engaged. In the end, the film's sound design could've been used more effectively, but it still makes for a good audio presentation.
Image Entertainment brings 'Franklyn' to Blu-ray with a lackluster package of supplements. In fact, the material is quite boring.
'Franklyn' falls into a long line of films where the lives of complete strangers are fatefully intertwined at the conclusion. Visually, director Gerald McMorrow shows great visual flare, but narratively, the plot is rather uninspiring and conventional. The Blu-ray version of the film arrives with a strong A/V presentation and a mediocre package of supplements. Folks might want to give it a rent before making a final purchase.