Okay, folks: line right up for our review of Hansel and Gretel: Frankenstein Hunters! Wait, I mean I, Van Helsing: Rise of the Angels and Demons. No, no that can't be it . . . Vampires: Werewolves? Bram Stoker's League of Extraordinary Abraham Lincoln Hunters?! Where am I?!
Sorry. I'll try and keep it together here. I, Frankenstein (there we are) is a new fantasy action-adventure film, using all those terms loosely. It's directed by Stuart Beattie but spawned by creator/co-writer/supporting actor Kevin Grevioux, who is responsible for the Underworld films.
And it's not very good.
Let's be clear: I, Frankenstein was never intended to be "good" in the same way that a Rembrandt is "good," and that's just fine with me. But if Guillermo Del Toro's slick Hellboy series was art and entertainment colliding, then I, Frankenstein is art and entertainment as two Druid ex-lovers showing up to the same sacrifice and furiously not-noticing the existence of the other, to the point of awkwardness for the other Druids involved.
The setup is that Frankenstein's monster (played by Aaron Eckhart), after the end of Shelley's novel, takes Victor's corpse a few hundred miles to bury it in the family graveyard. There he stumbles into an eternal war between the demonic forces of Hell and the sacred Gargoyles, created by the Archangel Michael to siphon the rain off buildings and fight bad guys. The Demon Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy) wants Frankenstein (who joins legions of Internet commenters in correcting people left and right that he's not Frankenstein) so he can study him and reanim—look, the end of the human race is a possibility here, that's all anyone needs to know.
The movie's more obvious failures are its least surprising: cardboard characters, plot peppered with non-sequiturs like so many steam-powered crossbow bolts jutting from the torso of a shambling zombie H.P. Lovecraft.
But the special effects and cool fight scenes are nowhere to be seen, either. In short, watching I, Frankenstein is like watching someone else play a video game with all the levels taken out, leaving just a string of cut-scenes behind.
It would be in poor taste to continue to list the reasons readers might not want to see this movie. It's obvious from interviews that Kevin Grevioux and director Stuart Beattie put a lot of time and thought into the world they were creating (a virtue that helped give Underworld a cult following). Evidence abounds of business problems and studio conflicts: the original director was fired, there was a nine-week shoot, the release date was pushed back, and there were many revisions to the original story.
This is probably a shame, because Grevioux actually has a handle on what made Mary Shelley's original novel so brilliant. He agreed with a venerable interpretation of the novel when he said in an interview:
For me, Frankenstein is a character we can identify with, being human, just by virtue of the fact that he essentially is an abandoned child. He was holding his father accountable for creating him and teaching him right and wrong and this creature who was intelligent actually read the Bible and understood what God, the true creator, did for Adam: He taught him right and wrong and he never left him, even after he banished him from the Garden of Eden, he still taught him right and wrong.
And that's what Victor Frankenstein didn't do [for his creation] —and because of that, Frankenstein has this anger inside of him, and he became a monster. Monsters, in particular, make good metaphors of sinful human beings.