Thursday, June 12, 2014
Culture Shock 06.12.14: 'I, Frankenstein' never comes to life
"I, Frankenstein" is "Frankenstein" meets "Highlander II: The Quickening" meets "The Matrix" meets "The Prophecy." As its poster helpfully warns, it's from the producers of "Underworld," so there's quite a bit of that, too. The result — directed by Stuart Beattie from a screenplay he co-wrote — is a shambling wreck, with its constituent parts pulling in different directions.
Frankenstein's monster — a one-note Aaron Eckhart, who seems as bored as I was — doesn't know who he is, philosophically speaking. And "I, Frankenstein" (now on Blu-ray and DVD) doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be. The former is expected when it comes to Frankenstein tales, but the latter is disastrous. Yet one thing is sure: "I, Frankenstein" doesn't think much of its audience.
It opens with the monster relating his life story in a tedious monotone. It's a story most of us learned in childhood, but this is a movie that assumes no prior knowledge. Prior knowledge probably just gets in the way.
"I, Frankenstein" picks up where Mary Shelley's novel ends. Victor Frankenstein and his monster have chased one another to the arctic wastes. Now Victor is dead from exposure, and the monster is left to wander until he, too, dies. Only he doesn't. Instead, the monster takes Victor's body back to the Frankensteins' ancestral home and is busy burying it when he is unexpectedly attacked.
The monster's attackers, as it happens, are demons. So now he is caught in the middle of a centuries-old war between demons and gargoyles. That's right: gargoyles, not angels, because angels would be too cliché. But these gargoyles are a lot like angels, especially when in their human form, which they are most of the time to save on the effects budget.
The gargoyles' queen, Leonore (Miranda Otto of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy), names the monster Adam, because apparently that's not too cliché.
Now you might think Adam, consumed with questions about his creation and all that, would take advantage of being in the presence of an angel — sorry — gargoyle queen with a direct line to God. But then you'd be confusing "I, Frankenstein" with a good movie, or at least one that follows its own logic. Instead, Adam leaves, goes as far away from civilization as possible and presumably hones his fighting skills so, 200 years later in the present day, he can walk the streets of an unnamed metropolis and kill demons, which amounts to "descending" them back to hell.
In the end, there can be only one — sorry, wrong movie.
Meanwhile, the demons, led by Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy, playing roughly the same role he did in "Underworld") have determined the soulless, man-created Adam is the key to finally winning their war against the angels — I mean gargoyles.
There's also a scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) who is trying to recreate Dr. Frankenstein's experiments. But none of that really matters. Mainly, "I, Frankenstein" is a movie in which Frankenstein's monster beats up a lot of CGI demons who beat up a lot of CGI gargoyles. Occasionally, for a change of pace, the monster beats up some gargoyles, too. He's not a people person.
Like "Underworld," "I, Frankenstein" tries to turn a Gothic horror character into an action hero. Also like "Underworld," it fails utterly. Just as the vampires in "Underworld" are too busy with their gun fights and wire-fu to behave like vampires, Adam doesn't do much you'd expect of a reanimated corpse. He's far too preoccupied with hitting things with his Franken-fu.
"I, Frankenstein" is Hollywood's latest attempt to remove anything monstrous from our monsters, turning them into superheroes who brood even more than Batman.
First it was vampires, then werewolves and now Dr. Frankenstein's creation. All of our monsters have been domesticated.