Review: “I, Frankenstein”

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Film: I, Frankenstein

Director: Stuart Beattie

Running Time: 93 minutes

Initial Release: January 20th, 2014

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto.

(Contains heavy spoilers.)

Despite a good effort of Aaron Eckhart playing Frankenstein’s monster, Stuart Beattie’s I, Frankenstein doesn’t show much creativity and is indistinguishable from contemporary fantasy action movies. Based on the graphic novel of the same title by Kevin Grevioux, the movie is overloaded with the religious duality of good vs. evil that overshadows the central story.

After an intro that hastily tries to connect the film to the original story as told by the creature, Frankenstein’s monster is unwillingly dragged into a fight.

While it is burying Frankenstein’s body at night in the graveyard, it’s suddenly attacked by demons. It can escape with the help of gargoyles that turn out to be warriors. They take him to their queen, Leonore (Miranda Otto). She pronounces the monster a “him” and names him Adam in reference to the biblical first man. She explains their fight against the demons but he isn’t interested to join them. Instead he flees to an empty part of the world. But the demons find him there and eventually he decides to return.

It’s a rather blunt plot device to get Adam from the 18th century into the present. Upon his return his clothes and appearance have also changed to a modern look. Even with visible scars, he could easily be the hero of any other action movie.

No longer wanting to be the hunted, he actively seeks out the demons to destroy them. But in his first fight a human gets killed and now even the gargoyles aren’t on his side anymore. They take him prisoner again.

During a demon raid on their hideout his guards set him free. When Adam learns the raid was only a distraction to kidnap Leonore to then exchange her for him, he leaves the cathedral to rescue her.

Gideon (Jai Courtney) finds him gone and desperate to get their queen back he decides to exchange Frankenstein’s records for her. Adam witnesses the trade. He tries to get the book from the demon and follows him to a secret facility where they are trying to recreate Victor Frankenstein’s experiments. There he meets Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski), the scientist in charge.

Once he retrieves the book from her, he flees and attempts to understand the notes but fails. He approaches Wade with the wish to understand himself and his creation. He tells her about the experiments and the on-going war but she only believes him when a demon attacks him.

Terra speculates that he wants her to create a companion for him and he doesn’t deny it.

Though Adam doesn’t want the demons to succeed, his motives to stop them are still selfish. He returns to the gargoyles and offers to trade the location of the demons’ secret lab in exchange for safety for himself and Terra. Leonore agrees but then sends Gideon after him, to retrieve the book and then kill him.

Gideon fails and Adam kills him instead.

While the demons are forcing Wade to help them finish the reanimation of their collected corpses, Adam reads Frankenstein’s journal and finally burns it. He then lures the gargoyles to the secret lab to get Wade out. The gargoyles succeed with his and Terra’s help and Leonore saves them.

For his selfless act out of love for Terra, Adam has gotten a soul. The new Adam calls himself Frankenstein and now wants to save humanity from demons, like the gargoyles.

With this finish I, Frankenstein has turned into a superhero movie and Frankenstein’s monster has become a demon slayer, similar to Buffy. The ending also indicates a possible sequel. Will we see “Frankenstein, demon hunter”? I hope not. There are plenty of superhero movies and their sequels out right now. Frankenstein’s monster didn’t need to be made into one and the story got lost in the process.

Taken alone the opening scenes and the background parts of the movie are well done in every aspect. The rest of the movie is only saved by Eckhart and Otto’s good acting. It seems Beattie was more interested in good action scenes and special effects than the story.

The lighting is great throughout the movie. It perfectly sets the mood as well as underlining the differences between gargoyles and demons. Gargoyles have warm light from candles or fire in their medieval surroundings, while the demons have cold neon light in their modern buildings. But the lighting works best in a few scenes when Eckhart’s face is half in the shadows. Combined with his make-up and short haircut, he then looks much more like the popular image of the monster.

The music doesn’t add much to the movie and the special effects are good but mostly a distraction.

If you want to watch a Frankenstein-themed movie or don’t know Shelley, it will entertain you. Otherwise you might get more out of reading the book.

I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

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