Review: I, Frankenstein
Here’s everything you need to know about I, Frankenstein: Mary Shelley, the author of the original Frankenstein, is only mentioned in the closing credits, in the “Special Thank You” section usually reserved for the director’s parents and their favorite filmmakers, the ones that are still alive and that they desperately want to have lunch with. Reverence is an afterthought. Cheesy new mythology is everything.
I, Frankenstein is an embarrassment of embarrassments, a tiny germ of a good idea gradually spread thin until a ghastly overcomplicated mythology overwhelms any sense of fun that could be had from “Frankenstein’s monster is still alive, he fights other monsters, and is basically a superhero.” A bit of an existential dilemma superglued onto a kitschy fantasy plot would have sufficed, at least to turn I, Frankenstein into a pleasingly dumb matinee thriller for little kids and horror hounds with flexible standards.
Instead, writer/director Stuart Beattie has shoveled on top of that foundation a nonsensical junkpile of constant exposition and pointless detail, all within a world of empty alleyways, churches and office buildings. It’s a film full of visual effects that have no effect whatsoever, because they matter to nobody. The world is supposedly at stake but where the hell is everyone? An evil business executive demon played by Bill Nighy wants to raise an army of Frankenstein monsters to take over the world, but in I, Frankenstein there are only three human beings in the world, and two of them already work for the bad guy. The third one dies immediately. What more could Bill Nighy want?
Aaron Eckhart plays Adam, the Frankenstein monster, a being made from a dozen different corpses that all looked like Aaron Eckhart. He fights off a bunch of demons because… because… and gets kidnapped by gargoyles who work for heaven and dress like “Xena: Warrior Princess” extras and who can’t touch a knife without twirling it around three times, producing a sound effect that goes “swoosh-swoosh-swoosh.” These gargoyles fight demons using knives with upside-down Christmas trees carved onto them. When they offer Adam his weapon of choice, he picks two giant sticks that they say are useless because they’re too heavy for anyone to wield, without ever adding why the hell they even have them if that's really the case.
Cut to the present day, when Bill Nighy has poured billions of dollars into Yvonne Strahovsky’s scheme to bring a Franken-rat back to life. “More power!” she yells. “We’ll kill it!” her minion replies. “It’s already dead!” she assures him. At no point do either of them realize they’re talking about a fucking rat that they stitched together with yarn and a massive overabundance of free time.
There’s a lot of talk – an awful lot of talk – about whether Adam has a soul, about how to dispatch a demon, and about why Miranda Otto is the Dalai Lama of gargoyles, but it all descends into tacky overblown madness with countless unnamed demons fighting countless unnamed gargoyles and a centrifuge of corpses with digital readouts on their chests counting upwards just how alive they are. 11% alive… 12% alive… 13% alive…
I, Frankenstein is mostly dead. It’s clear the visual effects teams were having more fun than anyone else in the movie, with the possible exception of Eckhart, whose desperate attempts to yell “I am neither man nor gargoyle!” as if it actually means something implies that somewhere in that handsome brain of his he thought that this movie might be really cool. Aaron Eckhart has the look, the gait and the sincerity of a real superhero, but aye yai yai, I, Frankenstein was the wrong way to go.
Now I know what it feels like to be nodding off.