I, Frankenstein is the latest in attempts to pop up and modernize old classics, it’s the people behind Underworld trying to do the same thing that they did with vampires with Frankenstein’s monster. This effort though is less successful than the worst of that series, the detestable Underworld: Awakening, so lets dive into why exactly in five handy points.
1. Sexy Frankenstein’s monster isn’t really a good idea to begin with Now, it’s perfectly fine to give something old a new spin without being accused of spoiling the original. But when you’re idea is make the monster a sexy, brooding demon hunter, with nothing to give the idea any other dimension, well then you’ve given free reign to accusations of sullying the source material. They basically turned him into shitty Batman with scars. They take the Frankenstein mythos and turns it into absolute flaming garbage, which is saying a lot given its treatment over the years.
It also doesn’t make him much of a monster if his perfect physique is featured on the cover men’s fitness magazines. “Oh, the agony of my perfectly sculpted abs.”
2. The monster was already tortured There’s no depth to that original “idea,” the execution consists of making Adam, as he now goes by because he’s the first of his kind, brood and spout his angst at a cursed existence at every point. But the monsters’ existence was already tortured and pained in much more interesting manner in the 1931 film.
There’s nothing new or novel about this approach, what it does has been done better elsewhere over the last 80 years of cinema, not to mention centuries of literature.
3. It looks bad (and even worse in motion) It’s flat and ugly, with poor CGI and miserably staged and shot fight scenes, which Aaron Eckhart lumbers through, bereft of any and all excitement, orientation and flow lost in a flurry of bad framing and editing. It all looks very cheap and hinders your immersion and attachment by highlighting it so heavily, as every scene does, often in slow motion so it’s if the filmmakers truly believe that what they’ve created looks good. Both the demons’ transformations and subsequent practical make up is worse than that of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and the gargoyle’s (who are God’s holy warriors apparently) jumps from human to creature form are little better. For context the film cost $65 million, which should buy you more than ends up on the screen here.
The sole redeeming factor of its visuals is the concept of ascension, divine light for gargoyles, and descent, a fiery blaze for demons. It doesn’t actually look great (Noah does this idea justice with it’s stone golems) but it’s a sound idea. Which is more than could be said of anything else the film offers. Also, the film’s idea of cool is encapsulated in Adam’s fingerless gloves.
4. The script, oh the script and the people delivering it Aaron Eckhart’s gravely voiced narration, which recurs throughout, is painful from the first syllable. Miranda Otto is given the dubious honor delivering a supremely clunky and awkward exposition bomb near the opening, after the initial voiceover. It’s desperately obvious play to cram all the world building, without really giving any sense of a world to the film, into a single monolog and it is truly awful, consisting of the entirety of the spoken dialog for at least the first twenty minutes. Of course there’s an “It’s alive!” and, yes, it’s bone crunchingly cringe worthy. It’s sloppily put together, much more so than Adam looks, and haphazardly paced with a palpable lack of energy. The plot is some drivel about a demon prince needing to learn the secret of Adam’s existence to resurrect a demon army. Hint: It’s lots of electricity, couldn’t think of that could’cha? Surely you tried that over the course of 200 years? Right? No? Oh, okay.
Writer-director, a kind application of the terms in these circumstances, Stuart Beattie fails to get a worthwhile performance out of any of the cast, which largely seem uninterested in being there, delivering his stilted dialog. He’s written some great stuff over the years, what happened? Motivation rarely makes any sense or is well laid out and sympathy for Adam is hard to come by. Yvonne Strahovski’s Dr. Wade has no discernible character traits, she’s simply a scientist and Jai Courtney owns the title of Blandy McBlandson. The way that Beattie tries to address some deeper themes of Frankenstein’s monster being outside the creation of a higher being is also insultingly shallow, without much meaning at all.
5. It’s not fun A lot of this could’ve been alaid if there had been a sense of fun about, well, anything. But there’s no joy to be found. Everything is played deathly serious with furious conviction and that sours the whole ordeal. Therefore it can’t be so bad that it’s good, you can’t laugh at it’s terribleness. Instead it’s just bad. Really, really, really bad. To boot it’s completely dull and mind numbingly boring.
On the most minor of plus sides, Bill Nighy does seem in on the fact that the film is pure garbage and chews every last bit of scenery to sawdust, which offers a brief reprieve from the otherwise relentless torrent of cinematic sludge. It thinks it’s really cool, like a dumb little puppy; blissfully unaware but without any of the canine’s entertaining qualities. And I don’t even like dogs that much.
I, Frankenstein is a mindless, soulless husk that tries to be epic but feels very small, taking place in no more than three locations. A poorly stitched together bag of mostly rotten, meaty garbage without an original thought in its body and only Bill Nighy saves it from absolute oblivion, though saves is a very, very strong word for what goes on here. Now the only Universal monster that hasn’t been properly modernized and sexed up in a major motion picture is the Mummy, though a reboot is in the works it isn’t of the ‘sexy flavor’. And with this film’s crushing failure he might just have killed the wave of sexy monsters. For now.