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I, Frankenstein (2014)

Cover art:

news/dec13/i-frankenstein-poster-final.jpg

I, Frankenstein (2014)Starring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney

Directed by Stuart Beattie


“Adam?”

“That’s the name the gargoyle queen gave me.”

Actual dialogue, folks.

I, Frankenstein is so ungodly asinine, misfiring on all cylinders on an epic scale, it could very well be the Highlander II: The Quickening of this generation. This is not schlock. This is dreck. There is a difference.

Director and co-writer Stuart Beattie opens his Underworld-ing of the greatest horror story ever told with a quickie recounting of the tale that would come to make me wish he’d just been allowed to craft a straight-up adaptation instead. New ending: Frankenstein’s monster honors his late “father” by carrying his corpse back home from the Arctic to bury him in the family cemetery, only to get ambushed by demons and rescued by gargoyles. I’m sure Mary Shelley would have approved.

Gargoyles, it turns out, are kind of like the Neighborhood Watch of angelic beings. They hang out around cathedrals, consider all human life to be sacred, fight the forces of evil, and when they are killed, they “ascend” to heaven in beams of light reminiscent of This Is the End.

When it comes to demons in the universe of I, Frankenstein, everything involves exploding into fire. Removing their human faces to reveal the scaly demon bobblehead beneath requires a mini-explosion of digital fire. Getting possessed by a demon – here comes a great big swirling stream of fire. Destroying a demon – there goes a great big whirling stream of fire. The first big fight between gargoyles and demons boasted so many fiery eruptions I felt like I was watching Michael Bay orgasm for five straight minutes.

Aaron Eckhart’s I-don’t-have-a-soul-but-check-out-these-abs Frankenstein is taken into protective custody by stony computer-generated gargoyles that can shapeshift into human versions of Assassin’s Creed. Except for Miranda Otto; she gets to dress like the queen of a medieval fantasy kingdom. That’s because she’s Leonore, queen of the gargoyle clan. The script will even require her to say to Eckhart with a straight face, “I am Leonore, queen of the gargoyle clan.”

It goes without saying that I, Frankenstein boasts some of the absolute worst dialogue I’ve heard in ages, and keep in mind I just saw The Legend of Hercules a week ago. I’m not talking howlingly bad or quotably bad; more like how-could-anyone-think-this-even-sounded-good-on-paper bad. Most of the dialogue isn’t even dialogue per se. It’s what I call Explainosition™ – copious amounts of exposition that forsake personality and character development while explaining and re-explaining the lore and the rules, recounting plot points, and paying lip service to empty themes. There’s no interest in advancing a story, either, since the plot is just an excuse to set up the next equally repetitious gargoyle/demon/FrankenBlade video game action sequence.

Despite gruff gargoyle Jai Courtney’s objections that Sexy Frankenstein be destroyed, Leonore, queen of the gargoyle clan, sees the potential for a soul in this soulless creature – an empty theme that will get beaten to death, reanimated, and beaten to death some more. She dubs him “Adam” and sends him on his way with only a pair of demon-slaying batons of righteousness.

I think she chose the name Adam because it’s short for “adamant,” and that word pretty much sums up Aaron Eckhart’s one-note performance. When he walks, he’s adamant. When he talks, he’s adamant. The perpetual scowl on his face: adamant.

Tired of living in the woods getting hunted by demons for 200 years, Frankensteinlander decides to get a haircut and head into a modern European city to take the fight to the demonic legion in their natural habitats (i.e., night clubs, back alleys, rooftops, scientific laboratories). The gargoyles show up again, only this time they’re far more bipolar. Depending on their mood at the moment, the gargoyles either want to help, hinder, detain, or destroy Adam. Make up your minds, already!

Determined to acquire Frankenstein’s monster or his instruction manual for reasons so loopy even Roger Corman would roll his eyes, is the evil demon Prince Naberius, portrayed by Bill Nighy, essentially playing the exact same role he does in the Underworld pictures, except wearing a business suit.

Remember what I explained a moment ago about the fiery reveal of their true demon faces? When Prince Naberius finally reveals his at the end, I was gobsmacked that his business suit also magically flamed into something classically Dracula-esque. Why did his clothing transform? Was it a satanic suit?

Naberius’ sinister corporation is engaging in resurrection experiments conducted by a character that might as well have been named Dr. Love Interest. “Dexter” starlet Yvonne Strahovski’s lady re-animator is described as one of the most brilliant scientists on Earth; yet, you’d never know it by what a blithering imbecile she’s written to be. She isn’t sure what to make of immortal Adam or his talk of a secret war between gargoyles and demons until he takes off his shirt and she gets an eyeful of his buff body; then she is all ready to become the bride of Frankenstein. He may be scarred, but he’s hunky scarred. What follows will be the most platonic movie romance since Pacific Rim.

For all the scientific blathering about the life-giving power of electricity in this film, somebody should have paid the electric bill. There’s hardly a scene that isn’t shot gloomy. Atmosphere is one thing, but when research labs and corporate offices are as dimly lit as Gothic cathedrals and nighttime graveyards… I suspect the reason Adam decided to read Dr. Frankenstein’s journal while on the subway is because that was the most brightly lit location in the entire movie.

Speaking of locations, what city is this taking place in again, and more importantly, where is everybody? Flocks of gargoyles fill the air. Hundreds of demons charge through the streets. Beams of light ascend to the heavens, and swirling streams of fire surge in every conceivable direction. An enormous building in the middle of the city explodes and literally collapses deep into the fiery pits of hell. Nobody sees any of this. Nobody is even around to see any of this.

As hilariously bad as some of what I’ve described may sound, it really isn’t much fun. This is nothing more than Frankenstein’s monster guest-starring in an especially crappy Underworld retread that replaces vampires and werewolves with gargoyles and demons. Aaron Eckhart’s Frankenstein is more or less Kate Beckinsale’s death dealer minus the guns, black fetish wear, and penchant for dropping from ceilings. Given the number of Underworld and Resident Evil movies we’ve had, I’m sure there are those that will walk out of I, Frankenstein thinking it was truly awesome film. For that… I weep.

1 1/2 out of 5

Discuss I, Frankenstein in the comments section below!

Foywonder

  • aries11

    Im glad they thought about redoing this movie, but totally underwhelmed:/ it was very PGish, like the first hobbit movie i thought was more like narnia or something, it wasnt as dark as the lord of the rings, in the same way this could’ve been a bit more gritty

  • Mr. Gray

    The best thing about this movie is the Mexican version of the poster.

    http://www.rowthree.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/yo-frankenstein_92605.jpg

    • frank_dracman

      LOL I got to get me one of those.

  • Rob

    Just got back from seeing it. I thought it was stupid harmless fun, nothing more, nothing less.

  • GODFLESH69

    The Underworld franchise is a guilty pleasure of mine since seeing Beckinsale at Comic con when they were promoting part 1 i guess i was all in . This looks so derivitive i like Eckhart and Nighy is always money ,too bad they attached themselves to this . In your opinion is this as bad as Van Helsing?

    • Chernobyl Kinsman

      Really.. REALLY? And American Horror Story is bad? Wow.

      • GODFLESH69

        If that show is good for you great enjoy that, I heard how great AHS was I tuned in a couple times and was underwhelmed.

        • Rottenjesus

          Then you are the perfect demographic for this movie. Enjoy!

    • zom6

      I haven’t seen it but it does look like underworld/van helsing in the trailer, not bad for the entertainment factor, but it would be nice to see a grittier version..

  • Gus Bjork

    I was hoping against hope the end product wasn’t as bad as the trailers made it seem. Looks like it’s Inside Llewyn Davis this weekend.

    • Uncle Creepy

      Llewyn Davis kind of disappointed me as well.

      • nazo

        What? WHAT?

      • Terminal

        I thought Llewyn Davis was excellent. I’m kind of surprised it got almost no Oscar nods.

  • Rottenjesus

    You called this movie I, FRANKENSHIT on DFF and it seems that it has earned that title and then some.

    • Foywonder

      Someone on DFF may have called it that. Wasn’t me. I referred to it as I, Frankenstein for the Xbox One.

      • Uncle Creepy

        I don’t remember that either. My guess is Buz, though I’m always a good possibility for profanity! LOL

        • Rottenjesus

          Weird. I totally thought Foy had coined that phrase but whatever. It’s still an appropriate alternate title.

          I look forward to the reviews of the ROBOCOP remake since I have no intention of giving any money to it at all. Ever.

          • Chernobyl Kinsman

            newp, pretty sure you imagined that!

            He did call it something else, but it wasn’t that (and right now I can’t be fucked listening again to see what it actually was!)

            And if Robocop doesn’t get a Fuck this movie out of 5 I will be shocked.

          • Cinemascribe

            The marketing for the Robocop remake is just…wow. It really does seem as if someone is deliberately trying to convince audiences to stay away from this one. This campaign has been so bad that I’m wondering if someone behind the scenes is operating with the same sort of logic that was applied to the making of the film Marty, as described in this excerpt from a Cracked article:

            “In 1954, actor Burt “I was the old guy from Field of Dreams” Lancaster and producer Harold Hecht faced a “problem” in every sense that the quotation marks imply: Their movies were too successful and made their studio too much money, which would actually end up costing them a bundle after taxes. So the studio came up with the idea to produce a movie so bad that it would become an instant flop and allow the studio to write it off on April 15, earning them a nifty net profit. As you may have guessed, Marty was meant to be that flop.

            The studio started by digging up a script from an episode of a third-rate TV show on NBC and had the original writer turn it into a full-length movie on the fly. They followed it by casting, as Lancaster put it, “two ugly people” in the main roles of this romantic dramedy, one of whom was mostly known for playing tough guys. They were so sure it would fail that the studio even had an accountant dutifully add up the costs of the production as they went and actually closed the set once he calculated that they’d lost enough money for the day. However, it turned out that the movie still had to be completed and released for the tax write-off to work, which was when the unthinkable happened: Marty became a hit.”

            Even for the egregiously stupid decision factory Hollywood has evolved into over the decades, the selling of Robocop to the masses has smacked of indeptitude to a degree that genuinely has me thinking it’s not mere incompetence. Perhaps someone signed an actor (or the director) to an expensive, multi-film contract with a release contingency if the first film fails, then realized in hindsight that the talent in question is anything but and will likely cost the studio millions of dollars in poor box office returns over the course of the next few years. That would make assuring the failure of the Robocop remake out of the gate their only way out, which would explain why it seems like they’re actively seeking to repel audiences who are fans of the original.

            Either way, I fully expect to see the phrase Robocrap become part of the parlance in the not too distant future.

          • zom6

            Is that true? id never heard that story, it just goes to show what its all about though, its about money for the big production companies.

          • frank_dracman

            Or, you know, they simply just don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. That’s my guess.

          • Cinemascribe

            As a rule, I’d say the same thing. But looking over the marketing for this, it’s as if they made a list of every possible element of the original film that fans would want to see carry over into a remake and then made a specific point of letting audiences know that this new film is going in the exact opposite direction.

            Originally Murphy is violently executed by a gang, motivating his human side to seek revenge against each of his murderers. The remake has him being blasted by a generic car bomb.

            The original was a hard R because Paul Verhoeven was, at times, using graphic violence to make a satiric point about dehumanization in the face of technological achievement , such as in the scene where Ed 209 malfunctions in the board room early on and kills the volunteer, only to have Dick Jones refer to the death as a “glitch”. The remake is PG-13.

            In the original two films with Peter Weller, Robocop takes on lowlifes with merciliess justice. Here, he apparently shoots robots.Did I mention that the remake is PG-13?

            Robocop originally spoke ina manner which suggested he was a mechanism possessing human emotions that were trying to fight their way through his programming in order to reassert their dominance over his thought processes. Since that’s exactly what he was, this lent weight to the subtext of the story, which was basically an allusion to Frankenstein. Based on his post transformation inflection in the trailers, he’s now a guy who happens to have a metal body.

            If this is all just the result of simple incompetence, my question is how did no one catch on to the fact that the people responsible for selling this remake are this clueless? To be this bad at what they do, you’d think they’d have to send up some sort of red flags earlier in their career. This is the advertising equivalent of hiring a sushi chef who doesn’t know how to prepare seafood.