I, Frankenstein is a movie that already feels about 10 years old. More than anything else it feels like that peculiar subgenre of movies that existed in the late 90s and early 2000s, reimagining various horror movie staples into big scale fantasy movies: The Mummy, Underworld, Van Helsing, etc. There have been periodic attempts to revive the subgenre, but they’ve all fell flat. And given how bad I, Frankenstein is, I can’t imagine this attempt will take either.
The plot is…ugh, do I really have to write this? Okay, so the movie frames itself as a direct sequel to the Mary Shelley book, as it picks up right after Dr. Frankenstein’s death. The monster (Aaron Eckhart) is attacked by a group of demons but is saved by the…sigh…Gargoyle Order; look they’re demon hunting angels who protect humanity, all right? The gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto) nicknames him Adam because of course she does and tells him that the demon prince Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy and these names aren’t getting any less dumb) wants him for unknown reasons and quite reasonably suggests he hang around so they can protect him. He declines, taking a couple anti-demon sticks and bums around the planet for a couple centuries until the Naberius’ plan becomes clear: he wants the monster to create an army of undead warriors to beat back the angels.
There’s a lot (and I mean a lot) of bad in this movie but oddly enough the biggest drag of the characters is the monster himself. Eckhart is pretty on board for saying all the incredibly ridiculous things that the script has him saying, but between the movie’s (often overlong) action sequences and the script spending way too much time detailing the not terribly interesting or complex war between the gargoyles and demons, there’s not a whole ton of time to develop him as a character. He grumbles, he broods, he occasionally snarks, but we’ve seen all that before and there’s nothing in the script or in Eckhart’s (sadly rather rote) performance that imbues him with anything resembling depth.
Of the other actors, Mirando Otto is kind of fun but she’s barely in the movie and more a plot device/exposition machine than a real character. Bill Nighy seems like he’d be tailor made for this kind of performance (after all, you will not forestall his judge-ment-tah) but he only shows up for a handful of scenes and is sadly restrained for the most part. Yvonne Strahovski (who some of you might know as the voice of Miranda from Mass Effect) is legendarily dull as what my friend and I deemed “Dr. Love Interest” and Jai Courtney continues to make me question why people are trying to hand him a career.
It doesn’t help that the script is flat out terrible. The plot is overly convoluted in all the wrong moments and full of so many holes that I actually started a running tally, which eventually caused me to conclude that either everyone in the movie is terrible at their job or the screenplay is being written by idiots. And given that the dialogue is so bad that I’m pretty sure Celtx has a command prompt to write all the dialogue for you, I’m going to lean towards the latter.
This is usually the point where the special effects and action scenes take over to give us a good time, but the movie can’t even be trusted to do that competently. The demons are across the board guys in suits with rubber masks, an effect straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and since it didn’t look great there, it looks flat out terrible here. The gargoyles are reasonably cool in…well gargoyle form, but the CGI used to realize them is subpar at best and in human form they’re just a bunch of robes and sandals cannon fodder.
As for the action, what do you want me to say? There’s one passable action sequence towards the middle, which is shot badly enough that it becomes mush and half a good chase towards the end (which is only acceptable because it’s the first time the monster moves at something other than a dramatic slowmo walk). And incidentally Mr. Director Man, whoever told you that the demons dying by being sucked into Hell via fireball wouldn’t get old is not looking out for you.
I, Frankenstein is, in a lot of ways, a movie that I wish was worse. Van Helsing is, in a lot of ways, a much worse movie, but it’s also one that’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch. Part of this is the hilarious absurdity of things like Dracula walking up a wall pontificating, but much more of it is due to the fact that the movie was alive and had energy, and everyone seemed to be really into making it, for better or worse. I, Frankenstein on the other hand is so dour and dreary that the only times it really comes alive when it accidentally becomes hysterical. I went in expecting a hilariously bad movie, but even by that pathetic metric I, Frankenstein is a failure. Do not see it.
Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he thinks this movie would have been a hell of a lot better if they’d just pulled the Frankenstein element out of the movie.
– fun design on the gargoyles
– occasionally good action sequences
– poor story and script
– dull acting
– boring to watch