I , Frankenstein – 2014
Okay. Got some booze to dull the pain. My wife’s out, so she won’t hear me yelling abuse at the screen. Let’s do this. I, Frankenstein.
Quick retelling of Frankenstein. Creation, abandonment, murder of Elizabeth, death of Frankenstein. The Monster (who, far from looking like a misshapen creature capable of causing terror in anyone who sees him, looks like Aaron Eckhart with a scar) buries Frankenstein. He is confronted by demons and fights them. Then…
Ah, I’m bored already. The Monster is drawn into Urban Fantasy Plot #1. There is a secret war between (supernatural creature group A) and (supernatural creature group B). Fate of the world, yadda yadda. In this case, the groups are demons and… well, the logical adversaries of demons would be angels, but for some reason they’re fighting gargoyles. Both sides seek to bring the Monster onto their side.
Gargoyle leader Miranda Otto gives the exposition. Unseen war, fate of mankind. The Monster — quite reasonably — doesn’t care. He walks off, but not before being given the name ‘Adam’, and subjected to a ton more exposition. Adam lives in the wilderness until the demons show up again. In modern times, Adam comes back to town because reasons.
Then, exposition and narration finally over, we finally get into the preposterous claptrap of the story. Bill Nighy is the demon leader. I like Bill Nighy. It’s a shame to see him doing this nonsense, but I guess his paycheck can subsidise a low paid dramatic role, so it probably works out. His scientists are trying to replicate Frankenstein’s experiment to create a soulless demon army.
The gargoyles capture Adam for fighting demons in public, thus making the implausible secret war even less likely. But then…
Ah, who cares. There’s a bunch of fighting. Every Urban Fantasy cliché in the book is dragged out and dusted off. There’s a dull, passionless romance subplot. The Demons lose. Adam Frankenstein wins, and
becomes a real live boy learns that he has gained a soul. The end.
As a movie, it’s pretty bad. The plot is a cliché, the characters are two dimensional, the actors are mostly second rate — and the few first rate actors are phoning it in. It has a fairly simple premise, but just can’t stop explaining this premise. It doesn’t seem to understand the difference between ‘atmospheric’ and ‘slow’.
What can I say that’s nice? It’s quite prettily shot, I guess. The CG is okay, and the way that killed demons turn into fire and go into the ground while gargoyles turn into light and go upwards is a cool touch. Some of the fight scenes aren’t bad. There’s lots of scenes of people entering or exiting a scene by breaking through a window and — Lord help me — I’m just dumb enough to enjoy that sort of thing.
So let’s not worry too much about I, Frankenstein as a movie. Let’s look at it specifically as a Frankenstein movie. What does it say about Frankenstein’s Monster? Well it takes his side from the start, going so far as to have the gargoyles simply write off his murder of Elizabeth Lavenza as no biggie. The film gives the Monster a name and implies that he’s capable of gaining the soul that his maker never gave him. This is a potentially interesting setup.
The flip side of that is the Monster is a straight up badass action hero, giving him little chance to give the character much in the way of humanity. He kills without mercy and tortures captured enemies when it suit him. This is a) pretty straightforward generic badass action hero stuff and therefore b) straightforwardly monstrous.
Partly this failure comes because of Eckhart’s limitations as an actor, and partly it comes from the imperative of this sort of movie, in which all the characters need to be grim and hardbitten, showing a very small range of emotion.
It could be better. Remember Karloff? Remember just how much of the Monster’s interiority he could display, even with his facial range limited by the heavy makeup? By comparison, Eckhart shows us little of what is going on inside in his alleged search for a soul.
Honestly, if you want to see ‘monster in search of humanity’ in an action movie setting, I recommend the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. They do it pretty well. Sometimes.
That’s about all I have to say about this one. If you like slightly dour action sequences and don’t mind skipping through the boring bits, I guess there’s worse ways to kill some time than I, Frankenstein.
Glad to have managed your expectations. No need to thank me.