*1/2 (out of 5)
January 24, 2014
Aaron Eckhart as ADAM
Yvonne Strahovski as TERRA
Miranda Otto as LEONORE
Bill Nighy as NABERIUS
Jai Courtney as GIDEON
Directed by: Stuart Beattie
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
If there’s one thing I’m not afraid to do, it’s admit I’m wrong. Hell, I’m wrong all the time about movies. It’s not uncommon for me to see trailers for a film and think it’s going to be a steaming pile of donkey poo, and then end up really enjoying it in the theaters. Similarly, there are times when a trailer makes a movie look fantastic, only to leave me disappointed when I finally see it.
Fortunately, today is not a day that I will have to admit I was wrong… at least not when it comes to “I, Frankenstein.”
When I first saw the trailers for the film, I thought it looked terrible. The effects looked overdone and cheap. The concept looked shaky at best. The acting looked bad (or at least the writing looked so bad that the actors couldn’t help but deliver laughable lines). And the movie looked like it had the uber-serious nature of the “Underworld” movies, leaving any hope for a shred of comic relief in the dust.
I. Was. Right.
Even thought I was pretty much expecting exactly what I got with the film, it still depressed me. One of my favorite books of all time was Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” For the most part, I have enjoyed the adaptations committed to film – in particular James Whale’s brilliant 1931 version, even though it takes severe liberties from the book.
Sadly, “I, Frankenstein” doesn’t play as a decent adaptation, nor as an interesting offshoot of the original legend. Instead, it plays out like an unwanted sequel to a terrible film adaptation that never should have made it past the concept stage.
The story follows Frankenstein’s creation (Aaron Eckhart), who has been knocking around the world for more than 200 years, dealing with his immortality. Where the events of the book leave off, we suddenly see him get swept up into a war between gargoyles and demons.
You remember the gargoyles and demons from Shelley’s book, don’t you? Me neither.
In modern day, the creature is being sought by the demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy), who wants to use the Frankenstein method to reanimate an army of the undead which can be filled with demonic souls trapped in hell.
Written and produced by the people who gave us “Underworld,” it’s clear they’re trying to apply the same treatment here. However, a series about warring monsters – the vampires and werewolves (pretentiously called the “Lycans”) – makes a certain amount of sense. After all, people have been monster mashing those creatures together for years. However, there’s nothing that really fits into the Frankenstein legend.
Enter the nonsensical war between the gargoyles and the demons.
In this sense, “I, Frankenstein” reminds me of last year’s awful film “The Host,” in which Stephenie Meyer tried to retro-fit the “Twilight” formula on “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” What resulted was a disaster, and we get the same intention with this film. The “Underworld” formula just doesn’t work with Frankenstein. It’s too intelligent of a story to begin with to be successfully dumbed down to what they were trying to do with it.
The real tragedy of the film is there are some fine actors in the movie. However, Miranda Otto is saddled with delivering dialogue about “The Order of the Gargoyles” (which literally made me laugh out loud every time that phrase was uttered). Bill Nighy looks like he’s having a bit of fun, but he soon gets bored with the role and phones in his performance. Even Eckhart, who is a fine actor in his own right, chews through the scenery and cheeky dialogue, making himself look bad.
In fact, the only person who comes out of this film relatively unscathed is Yvonne Strahovski. It’s not that she does a fine performance. She doesn’t, delivering a terrible British accent and playing an unrealistically gorgeous neurologist that is about as believable as Elisabeth Shue as a physicist in “The Saint” or Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in “The World Is Not Enough.” Strahovski makes it through the film because she’s dull and boring in her role, and you expect very little from her. She’s the acting wallflower that is quickly forgotten while the better actors give it their all and look like fools in the process.
Ultimately, this film is its own Frankenstein monster because it sews together disparate story concepts from three or four different genres and tries to bring it to life.
Yet like the Frankenstein monster, it is an abomination.