A film review by Craig J. Koban January 31, 2014



2014, PG-13, 92 mins.


Aaron Eckhart as Adam  /  Yvonne Strahovski as Terra  /  Bill Nighy as Naberius  /  Jai Courtney as Gideon  /  Miranda Otto as Leonore  /  Aden Young as Dr. Frankenstein  /  

Directed by Stuart Beattie  /  Written by Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie


Very few action fantasies have proved to be as aggressively forgettable as I, FRANKENSTEIN, which achieved the near impossible by boring me senseless within its first fifteen minutes.  

I don’t have any objections, per se, with filmmakers taking iconic works of literature – in this case, Mary Shelly’s early 19th Century creation – and re-imagining it in a refreshing new light.  Alas, I, FRANKENSTEIN is so mind-numbingly lacking in creativity and so relentlessly dull in even basic execution that - even at an already scant 92 minutes - the film feels like a grim, ludicrous, and flavorless endurance test.  Worse yet is the fact that great actors like Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, and Miranda Otto have their respective talents dragged down to levels that are beneath them in the process. 

Based loosely on the graphic novel of the same name (unread by me), I, FRANKENSTEIN opens with the very familiar tale of Victor Frankenstein (Aden Young) engaging in a God-like mission to reanimate the dead.  He produces a living being  – via electricity – made out of various body parts, but in attempting to destroy his creation he made his situation even worse.  The creature (Eckhart) was perused by Frankenstein, but in the process the mad doctor dies, leaving the monster relatively free to peruse what semblance of a life that he could make for himself.  For reasons never fully explained – as far as I can tell – the monster (now dubbed Adam…oh, how clever!) emerges in moderns times, looking pretty much the same way he did several centuries ago (well, he cut off his 1800's grunge rocker-like do for a more contemporary looking coif).  



However, Adam can’t seem to live in total seclusion, as he becomes ensnared in an ageless war between, yes, Gargoyles and Demons, both vying to use Adam for their own purposes.  The Gargoyle queen Lenore (Otto) offers Adam sanctuary, which does not please her right hand man, Gideon (Jai Courtney).  As Adam begins to discover the vile secrets and motives of the Demons (led by their prince, Naberius, played by the eye brow raising Nighy), Adam decides that it’s time to take a side in the battle while fending for himself.  Naberious hopes to create a vast army of undead soldiers using Victor’s Frankenstein’s methods (granted, using 200-year-old science does not make much sense), but he also makes use of a scientist, Terra (the fetching Yvonne Strahovski) and her experiments to bring the dead back to life.  While all of this occurs, Adam discovers the existence of his maker’s scientific diary that explains, in detail, how he was created, which becomes a MacGuffin-like device that everyone in the film wants.  Predictably, this leads to a climatic battle between Adam and the Gargoyles versus the Demons.  

I’m not really sure where to precisely begin with relaying just how wrongheaded I, FRANKENSTEIN is on most fundamental levels.  Perhaps I should start with Frankenstein’s creature himself, and despite the fact that he’s made up of – by his own words – “a dozen used parts from eight different corpses” and he's well over two centuries old, Adam looks more like a physically chiseled and scar covered GQ cover model than he does a reprehensible creature cannibalized from other bodies (the years have been inexplicably good to him).  Eckhart’s performance is depressing, seeing as he's forced to grunt, groan, and enunciate with a flat, monotone timbre that makes him come off as a person suffering from constipation.  Considering the fact that he’s the title character, Adam is so lacking in even a scintilla of charm and charisma that you have to pinch and remind yourself that he’s the hero; there’s just nothing to emotionally latch on to here.  In essence, he's a movie prop.

The other performers fare no better.  Miranda Otta brings what semblance of class and dignity she can to her role, and Bill Nighy perhaps seems like the only member of the cast that understands that he’s in a truly preposterous film and plays things up for pure camp value.  Yvonne Strahovski is astoundingly easy on the eyes and is a very decent actress to boot, but her scientist role lacks credibility throughout.  As a staunch woman of science, she seems relatively unaffected by the relative chaos that surrounds her throughout much of the film, nor does she spend more than a fleeting moment doubting any of the particulars of Adam’s heritage.  When Adam does make an appearance, Terra hysterically – and unintentionally so - retorts, “So, the rumors are true!”  Ouch. 

The film also rushes through its already murky and confusing mythology like it’s on some sort time-dependant mission to gloss over what would have been salient and cohesive elements.  Most of the time, I was left scratching my head and asking too many questions of this film’s half-baked and oftentimes senseless storyline.  How does Adam live so long and look so good in the process?  How does he learn to become a martial arts and gravity defying weapon of lethality?  Who trained him?  The Gargoyles and Demons themselves can take human form, but can then easily revert back to their monstrous facades, often in the middle of the city, where they stage epic battles in the skies and streets.  Alas, where are the other humans in this film?  Why hasn’t anyone noticed these supernatural creatures killing each other and destroying countless buildings in the process?  Do news cameras, the Internet, or TV not exist in this film’s universe to broadcast these extraordinary events?  Outside of the main characters in the film, I, FRANKENSTEIN is laughably free of citizens that bare witness to this madness.  

You would also think that a film based on a graphic novel would at least compensate by generating some visual interest in the film, but director Stuart Beattie is more interested in perfunctory and generic CGI heavy battles than with giving the film a tactile look and feel that it desperately requires.  When Eckhart wildly swings away at the Demons they disintegrate into pixelized flames and dust, which really becomes more monotonous the more it occurs.  The Gargoyles themselves – in their otherworldly forms – are pretty shoddy looking and all maintain the same relative appearance in their concrete covered bodies.  For the most part, I, FRANKENSTEIN looks like a preliminary version of what was on an art director’s portfolio instead of a fully realized final product.  And as for the 3D?  It adds little to the film’s already dark palette, other than the fact that it makes the film even more distractingly murky.  

The idea of I, FRANKENSTEIN is kind of intriguing (what if Victor’s hellish creation lived on into the modern era?), but the screenplay offers up next-to-nothing in terms of commentary for how the pathetic and sad creation that is Adam would acclimatize himself to strange contemporary world.  No dice.  This film is more inclined to be an aggressively loud and nonsensical explosion of mindless sound and fury, and poor Eckhart has his good name and image as a solidly dependable and stalwart actor get overwhelmed by this maddening drivel in the process.  If you want to have your senses mercilessly pummeled for an hour and a half by an incoherently and mindlessly constructed film, then I, FRANKENSTEIN is for you.

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