Saturday, May 10, 2014

I, Frankenstein: A Review


I do not have the disdain that so many of my fellow critics have towards I, Frankenstein.  It might be that I have not read the graphic novel which spawned the film.  It might be that I had little to no expectations other than to be entertained by it.  It might be that I think Aaron Eckhart is a wildly talented yet frustratingly underused actor who is so above this material (and who I think was better in The Dark Knight than the overrated Heath Ledger, but that's for another time).  Oh, but that isn't to say that I, Frankenstein is a good film.  In many respects, it is not good.  However, 'not good' does not equal 'bad' or 'terrible', and I, Frankenstein is a film that is 'not good' but nowhere as monstrous as I had been led to believe (no pun intended).

In a drawn-out expositionary opening scene, Victor Frankenstein's Monster in voice-over tells us his story.  It goes through Mary Shelley's novel, until the Monster buries Victor.  At this juncture, the film goes on its own: he is attacked by demons for reasons explained later.  The monster is rescued, however, by gargoyles who appear as angels and the Monster is swept up to a massive Notre Dame-like cathedral where he meets the Gargoyle Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) and her right-hand angel/gargoyle Gideon (Jai Courtney), though exactly how 'right-hand' he is remains a tantalizing mystery.  Leonore renames the Monster Adam (Eckhart) and we get another history lesson.  These gargoyles appear as gargoyles but are really protectors of the Earth who had been created by the Archangel Michael.  Since then, the gargoyles have been fighting the demons with sacred weapons which bore their mark.  In battle the demons would 'descend' (go to Hell and never return) and the gargoyles would 'ascend' (go to Heaven and never return) if one or the other was struck down.  Adam, still angry at humanity, wants nothing to do with this war.

However, the demons are pursuing him, for a couple of centuries I think.  Let's fast forward to the Twenty-First Century.  This war continues, and now Adam, who has kept his identity secret, has been discovered by the demons.  The Demon-Lord Naberius (Bill Nighy) now wants to capture Adam as part of a nefarious plan to bring back all his demons and unleash them upon the world.  Adam is a being without a soul, and as such he could be the vehicle to which bring back Naberius' legions, since they require bodies without souls.  If he could unlock the secrets of how Adam came to be (and the bad Doctor's notebook, kept hidden in Leonore's sanctuary. 

Naberius has been funding the research of scientist Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) to bring about reanimation, and she at first refuses to believe the whole idea of Frankenstein and his creation.  However, after meeting Adam (who rescues her from the gargoyles), it is up to them to stop Naberius from unleashing his army.

Quite Monstrous...
Somehow, I can't find it in my heart to dismiss I, Frankenstein, despite how often it fumbles.  Part of it comes from the fact that at a mere 92 minutes, it doesn't tax my mind.  I might say that at 92 minutes, things are forced to go so quickly that we never stop to wonder about things, let alone care about characters who come and go so fast their end don't have the emotional impact writer/director Stuart Beattie wants us to have.

Take for example when Gideon is 'ascended' by Adam.  We didn't know him well enough to feel when he was taken.  That really goes for almost everyone because the story had to go so fast there was never any time to know the people. 

It also has the problem that everyone basically doesn't appear to take this seriously.  This works for some people.  Nighy is having a ball being evil, and Otto similarly knew what she was in was junk.  Bless them for playing things in a slightly bemused manner befitting the film.  As for Eckhart, I think he knew the same.  That explains why he growled his lines throughout I, Frankenstein, trying to make all this seem reasonable but also knowing that this would not be a career highpoint.  

I love Aaron Eckhart and wish he would be given roles that befit his talent.  I, Frankenstein ain't it, but he did his best (and shows off that at 46, he's still in great shape).   

Everyone else looked either disinterested or a bit lost.  Maybe Strahovski was unaware that this wasn't good material, which is why she seems to be the only one who thinks this is a legitimate film.

One complaint I have is that the film is quite dark, literally.  It always seems that all the action takes place at night, and even without 3-D the film looks opaque and at times hard to see.  IF there were people who went to see it in 3-D, I feel for them.

Here's the deal with I, Frankenstein.  It's junk.  I know it, and I think everyone involved knew it too.  Despite the suggestion of a sequel (something I detest), I have the feeling that this will be the last we will see of Frankenstein's creation.  Boris Karloff's reputation is safe. 

In the end, I can't bring myself to vote down I, Frankenstein, not because I think it's a good film (it isn't), but because I think everyone knows it isn't and for that, I can give it the mildest of passes. 


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