MOVIE REVIEW: ‘I, Frankenstein’ is monstrously bad

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First Posted: 1/27/2014

“I, Frankenstein” is bad because it’s lazy. Pedestrian. Bland. In profiling Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart), now ruggedly handsome and equipped in clothes from the Gap’s vagabond slim line, wreaking havoc in modern-day London, director/writer Stuart Beattie can’t even fail grandly. That tells you all you need to know.

Based on Kevin Grevioux’s graphic novel, “I, Frankenstein” feels off from the start. Beattie explains the monster’s first 200 years — driven by murderous revenge, pursued by demons, saved by human-gargoyles, wandering the Earth — in about five minutes. Then we leap to the present, where ponderous dialogue explains the motives of the noble gargoyles and the demons and how the monster (rechristened Adam — religious symbolism, y’all!) fits into this never-ending feud that now threatens humanity.

Or Beattie’s dialogue takes us from point A to point B to point C in the plot, an OK strategy if “I, Frankenstein” were an action spectacle instead of a screensaver with a massive CGI budget. Scenes are either shot too tight or seemingly from the adjacent soundstage on top of a water tower.

Beattie (whose writing credits include “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) uses special effects as an anesthetic to numb us from the effects of the lazily adapted story, which offers a protagonist with a frowny face as the main incentive for the audience to hop aboard. Throw in supporting actors with fancy-pants accents, an attractive love interest with a medical background so the ladies aren’t instantly offended, and give the hero a Christian Bale rasp. Done!

Not even close. Providing a bed, a hot water heater, and a thousand planks of wood doesn’t mean a contractor has built a house. Offering parts of a movie isn’t a movie. The director has to put them together so an audience is compelled to keep watching and not ask questions, such as, “How did Adam learn to speak? How did he survive for 200 years? Who cut and highlighted his hair?”

When Beattie’s race to quitting time isn’t disrupted by unanswered questions, he’s unintentionally insulting us. The creatures and the humans exhibit the same limited emotional range, making it hard to root for anyone. Prime example: When Adam’s nemesis (Bill Nighy) — whose human form is an oily titan of industry — talks about procuring Frankenstein’s monster, the aforementioned doctor (Yvonne Strahovski) and her colleague (Nicholas Bell) react like they’ve been told they have to work through the weekend.

I guess suspense and recognizable human emotions would have distracted Beattie from shuttling us to the next bland dystopian “thrill” or deprived us of more somber talk about the threat of the bubbling underworld. The loony high point comes when it is revealed that though Adam consists of spare parts, he — not it, thank you — does have a soul, an unintentional punch line I couldn’t bear to laugh at. That’s probably because, like many of the characters in “I, Frankenstein,” I had died — at least on the inside. I was just waiting for the end credits to summon me to the exit and my salvation.

Rating: W V

-To read more of Pete’s cinematic musings, please follow him on Twitter: @PeteCroatto.