I, Frankenstein (2014)
Directed by Stuart Beattie
“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