I, Frankenstein

Posted by Michael Parsons on January 24, 2014 in / No Comments


A monumental waste of time (if the trailer was somehow not sufficient enough warning), “I, Frankenstein” is a bungled attempt to incorporate Mary Shelley’s monstrous creation into a yarn involving a centuries-old battle between gargoyles and demons, most of the time abandoning the very mythos that would have made the film marginally interesting in the first place. Possibly a career low-point for everyone involved (even Jai Courtney, who last year was unfortunate enough to hop on the “Die Hard” train just as it was plummeting off an overpass), this cinematic blunder, which is based on the graphic novel by “Underworld” alum Kevin Grevioux, is like an offshoot of that progressively weakening vampires vs. werewolves saga with a premise so threadbare that it had to borrow an iconic character just to have a relatively interesting title. It’s not surprising to find that this movie also shares several producers and actors with the aforementioned action/horror franchise, as it follows virtually the same formula, hoping we won’t notice the creative void between each massive, incoherent melee.

i-frankenstein-aaron-eckhartRoaming the Earth some centuries ago after his creator freezes to death in pursuit of him, the monster (Aaron Eckhart), looking like he was pieced together out of wayward Versace models, is snatched up by a group of gargoyles who believe that demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy, who literally bellows “I am a demon prince! You cannot destroy me!!!” toward the end of the film) is trying to capture him for some unknown reason. After being renamed ‘Adam’ by the gargoyle queen, who looks like Miranda Otto (“The Turning”) in human form, the creature rejects  their offer of protection and goes on his way, never mind that the gargoyles are Heaven’s primary defense against the forces of evil  (at least I think that’s the “sacred duty” to which Jai Courtney’s Gideon vehemently and repeatedly refers).

i-frankenstein-movie-wallpaper-18“I go my own way” and “I’m looking for my own answers” are highlights of the dialogue that Eckhart has been given to work with. Flash to present day in some dark, unnamed place full of gothic architecture that suggests the Apocalypse may have already happened, and Adam, sporting an updated haircut and a Black Belt in various martial arts, spends his days disposing of the occasional demon (or “descending” them, as they call it) and looking severely dyspeptic. When he’s revisited by the gargoyles (who prefer to spend way too long in human form during battle even when they’re much more powerful as winged beasts), we learn that something big and sinister is afoot. Turns out that Naberius, now with the proper technology at his fingertips, is trying to resurrect hordes of soulless bodies for all of his demon minions to possess, and he needs the monster and/or Victor Frankenstein’s journal to figure out how to do it. Now, suddenly, Adam feels compelled to protect humankind, but I’m pretty sure it’s all about sultry scientist Terra (Yvonne Strahovski of “Chuck”), who is oblivious to the fact that her employer is really demonic royalty, and with whom Adam shares at least one moment of awkward sexual tension (a scene where Eckhart exposes his exceedingly buff torso prompts a less-than-subtle look of consideration from her).

I-Frankenstein-05Boris Karloff conveyed more anguish in one silent gesture in the original “Frankenstein” than Eckhart manages in all of this film. Yes, it’s an entirely different kind of movie. But the creature is still struggling to understand his existence, still the misunderstood product of a madman’s whim, is he not? Eckhart would have done better simply by channeling his brilliant portrayal of Harvey Dent in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” to add something more to the creature than just fancy – and let’s face it, ridiculous looking – fighting techniques. Instead, he fades into the muted tones of this dreadfully monotonous  action flick, almost inconsequential to the outcome of his own story. Director/co-writer Stuart Beattie (2010‘s palatable “Red Dawn” knock-off “Tomorrow, When the War Began”) tries to make his cartoonish narrative look dead-serious, when it might have been improved by a touch of comic self-awareness. And considering how concerned the film seems to be with the extinction of humanity, we might have been given a little back story – and maybe even a few more humans – to put some semblance of meaning behind this massive battle between good and evil. Instead, we’re hard-pressed to care about any of the one-dimensional characters as we’re forced to endure big action sequences that look as if they’d been designed specifically to spruce up the movie’s trailer. At its best “I, Frankenstein” looks like the worst parts of “Wrath of the Titans” wrapped around some thrown-away “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” script. If you still feel compelled to subject yourself to this film, I implore you, at least avoid the 3D.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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