Review: I, Frankenstein
PLOT: 200 years after his creation, Frankenstein's monster is drawn into a centuries-old battle between demons trying to rule the world and gargoyles who will do anything to stop the takeover.
REVIEW: You actually have to hand it to I, FRANKENSTEIN. It's utterly ridiculous in every imaginable way, yet it goes about business with a straight face. Perhaps that's because it's "hero", Adam (Aaron Eckhart) aka Frankenstein's monster, is about as boring and bland as can be, reacting to every absurd situation the same exact way. There may be demons ripping off their human disguises and gargoyles descending from rooftops every five minutes, but Adam's tediousness never wavers.
I, FRANKENSTEIN is the kind of movie I might have loved when I was about seven-years-old. (And even that's a stretch.) As adults, can we really take "a war between demons and gargoyles" with anything other than a scoff? Oh sure, we accept any number of silly plots at face value during the summer, but this film is goofy on another level, displaying all the narrative finesse of a rambling adolescent. "And then a gargoyle kills the demon and it explodes and goes on fire and then Frankenstein's monster hits the demon on the head with a stick and then-" Yeah yeah, okay, sure. Go to your room.
Written and directed by Stuart Beattie, I, FRANKENSTEIN fast-forwards through the Frankenstein legend as we know it in the first five minutes: The monster has killed his maker and now wanders the earth without a purpose, seeking out solitude where he can live out his tortured days in whatever might pass for peace. But he catches the attention of a demon horde looking to unlock the secrets of reanimation; if they are able to revive the dead, they can call upon their fallen demon buddies to possess the corpses and they'll have an unstoppable army (or something to that effect). The monster doesn't want any part of this, naturally, but he also doesn't necessarily want any part of the demons' opposition, gargoyles. Yeah, kids. Gargoyles are actually humanity's protectors, fighting off demons whenever the bad guys make a move for world domination. The gargoyles enlist the monster, whom the "Gargoyle Queen" (Miranda Otto) dubs "Adam", to give them a hand in saving the world. Try as the poor creature might, he gets roped into helping them. Doesn't hurt that he knows kung-fu and can't be killed.
As you can tell, this is a tremendously silly plot, and though I don't think the film would have benefitted from a tongue-in-cheek approach, Beattie serves up his film monotonously, with absolutely no humor to be found. Everyone grumbles and mutters their lines, the dialogue filled with platitudes and empty threats. I, FRANKENSTEIN is snooze whenever Adam or anyone else is providing a never-ending steam of exposition. No one looks like they're having any fun, except for maybe the visual effects team, who are able to craft a few decent action sequences; when the gargoyles and demons go at each other (within what appears to be an almost-empty city), the ensuing light show is enough to hold your attention, as demons explode and descend to hell, while gargoyles ascend brightly into heaven. Truth be told, the 3D here isn't bad either; I expected another muddled post-conversion job, but in the battle scenes the 3D is admirably vivid.
Eckhart is a good actor, and this is the very definition of slumming it. He obviously got fit for this role, and he's able to show off some moves in an elaborate Kali stick fight, but he couldn't appear more disinterested. Bill Nighy, another solid performer, falls back on his intimidating angry-face as the leader of the demons; he can do this kind of thing in his sleep - and clearly does here. Yvonne Strahovski, who is lovely (and not quite a solid performer), plays a beautiful scientist unknowingly helping the demons in their quest for world domination; she just looks confused most of the time. A shallow attempt to generate some heat between her and Adam goes absolutely nowhere; even Dr. Frankenstein himself couldn't create chemistry between these two. I might reserve the most pity for Miranda Otto, as she stoically remains a trooper even though she's being referred to as "The Gargoyle Queen" left and right. Somewhere there are outtakes of Otto smirking and rolling her eyes.
The main question I had for I, FRANKENSTEIN after it concluded (spoiler alert: it ends with the line "I, Frankenstein." HA!) is, why does this exist? Who is this movie made for? The ads have made much out of the fact that it's from the same producers of the UNDERWORLD movies, and I, FRANKENSTEIN carries over the same grim-blue visual style and self-serious attitude, but I don't even think UNDERWORLD fans will give a hoot about this lame effort. It doesn't respect the "Frankenstein" lore and brings nothing new to the fantasy or horror genres. Truth is, I, FRANKENSTEIN isn't for anyone; it has been created in a depressing lab and will now be cast off into a cold world where no one will ever love it… Hey, who does that remind you of?