I, Frankenstein (2014)
Directed by: Stuart Beattie
Premise: An adaptation of the graphic novel. Set in the present day, Frankenstein’s creature (Aaron Eckhart) finds himself in the middle of a war between good and evil spirits.
What Works: I, Frankenstein was co-written by Kevin Grevioux, who was also a co-writer of the Underworld films, and it was directed and co-written by Stuart Beattie, who had also received writing credits on the original Pirates of the Caribbean and 30 Days of Night. These films, along with titles like 2004’s Van Helsing, represent a modern version of the kinds of pictures made throughout the 1960s and 1970s by Roger Corman and by the Hammer film studio. Taken in that light, I, Frankenstein is an attempt to make a fun horror-action combo. The target audience of this movie are teenagers who enjoy videogames and comics and for them this film will be an amusing diversion. On the level of filmmaking craft, I, Frankenstein mostly succeeds. It frequently looks great with impressive digital and makeup effects; whatever the other problems of this movie (and there are many), the filmmaking crew cannot be accused of laziness. I, Frankenstein also has a fun music score by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek, which tends to elevate the movie.
What Doesn’t: Despite the earnest efforts on the part of the filmmakers, I, Frankenstein can never overcome the inherent absurdity of its premise. This film is an attempt to turn Frankenstein’s creature into a superhero but it doesn’t work. Co-writer Kevin Grevioux had done something similar in the Underworld films with moderate success but those pictures found ways to combine Matrix-style action scenes with the mythology of vampires and werewolves. The attempt doesn’t work in I, Frankenstein because the creature of Mary Shelly’s novel is a tragic figure who does not lend itself to the action genre. The inherent problem of turning the monster into a superhero is exacerbated by the miscasting of Aaron Eckhart in the title role. Eckhart is a fine actor who has given terrific performances in movies like Thank You For Smoking and Rabbit Hole but he is unsuited for the part of Frankenstein’s monster. He does not have the physique for it and Eckhart is done no favors by the makeup, which consists of a few faded scars over his otherwise impeccable features. The problems of the makeup are indicative of a more fundamental problem of I, Frankenstein; the filmmakers don’t do anything interesting with the Frankenstein mythos and don’t seem to understand the character. They’ve used the name “Frankenstein” but the character on screen bears little resemblance to anything in the original novel or its many movie adaptations, nor does the story reflect the themes and ideas that Frankenstein embodies. I, Frankenstein also suffers from a lot of basic moviemaking problems. The dialogue is terrible, with the actors delivering ridiculous lines that are supposed to sound tough and cool but come across hokey and pretentious. Although the special effects are acceptable, the visual style of the picture looks like a video game and like other films that rely heavily on digital effects, nothing in the film has any gravitas. Despite all the creatures fighting to the death on screen, it never feels as though anything is at stake. This has been a common problem for contemporary fantasy pictures, from small movies like I, Frankenstein to big budget efforts like The Amazing Spider-Man.
Bottom Line: I, Frankenstein might have been better as a video game than a motion picture. The film is not awful but it isn’t very good either. This is a forgettable movie with a silly premise and a lackluster execution.
Episode: #476 (February 2, 2014)