Unlike The Fellowship of the Ring, whose visuals nicely complement Lady Galadriel’s opening narration, the storytelling style of Stuart Beattie’s I, Frankenstein is one of showing fairly self-evident imagery and having a character explain exactly what’s going on. Though frustrating, this laborious approach is but one of many factors that mar the otherwise intriguing concept of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) surviving into modern times and being in a unique position in a war between evil demons and holy gargoyles.
That’s not to say there wasn’t the potential for a good time at the movies. Early on, in an example of how not to edit a fight sequence, the monster is attacked by demons while burying his creator (Aden Young) and snuffs a few of them out before being rescued by a band of benevolent, shape-shifting gargoyles. At this pivotal moment, I, Frankenstein cannonballs into camp when gargoyle Keziah (Caitlin Stasey) notices the monster hasn’t quite expired and, yes, shouts, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Now, if the story wants to play this reference-heavy game, that’s fine, but unwilling to embrace this less-refined side, the film returns to humorless action/fantasy mode and never recovers.
Christened Adam by gargoyle Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto), the monster takes to the far reaches of the world for 200 years where he becomes adept at twirling fortified sticks. Returning to what appears to be modern-day London, and not nearly as freaked out at the intervening technological changes as he suggests, Adam rekindles his beef with the demons, who look like they’re on loan from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These actions attract the attention of dark prince Naberius (a wasted Bill Nighy), who’s been trying to capture the monster these two centuries.
Turns out the deviant has been working on reproducing Dr. Frankenstein’s results in order to field an army of dead bodies inhabited by descended demon souls, biding their time in hell until the, well, science is ready. Housed in a Matrix-like body farm beneath his corporate laboratory, each corpse comes with a handy reanimation level to ensure that the resurrected human is properly cooked. Details like this don’t help, but after being pummeled into boredom by the film’s brick-dumb style for over an hour, spotting these little pieces offer welcome point-and-laugh value. Though none of the cast does anything he or she should be proud of, Eckhart’s scowl and monotone are an especially dull combination that, while representative of Adam’s soulless nature (a point that’s made abundantly clear), does the film few favors.
Despite these consistent shortcomings, I, Frankenstein somehow features superb sound effects. The clang of metallic weapons and especially the fireball whoosh of a demon descending to hell are the work of artists who know what they’re doing. The opposite, however, appears to be the case for the rest of the crew.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout.
I, Frankenstein is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.