Where to begin? In 1795 Dr. Frankenstein creates a “monster” (Aaron Eckhart) who, contrary to past representations, is a pretty boy with a few nasty scars. The doctor considers it a monstrous creation of science, and while we’re never shown exactly why that is he attempts to kill the creature for the betterment of mankind. The monster survives and, as revenge, murders the doctor’s wife. Sounds fair, right? That’s a part of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, but in this retelling, that murder does not fit in at all.
Writer/director Stuart Beattie’s film is all about the monster being as human as the rest of us even as he’s on a path towards true humanity. The problem is you’ll never care. He shows no regret killing the good doctor’s wife, and in one of the unintentionally funniest bits of the film he shrugs off a cop’s death as no biggie. It’s a strange choice to have a character an audience is meant to root for act so nonchalant over something like this to the point that he even makes a sarcastic quip over the cop’s death.
Beattie and Eckhart are trying to create an anti-hero, but Adam (as the monster comes to be known) is too villainous for too long. His character arc is a flatline making it difficult to invest in whether or not he’ll come to learn about himself or grow as a “person.” Adam is a character passively wandering through a bigger story, and that’s not engaging movie material.
The gargoyles and demons have been at war for centuries. The gargoyles protect the humans from the demons, who are led by a literally eyebrow raising Bill Nighy. Nighy, of all the cast, knows what movie he is in, and he’s keenly aware of how to react to the bonkers image of an oversized mouse being brought back to life. This is the kind of lunacy the film should have strived for more of.
But with Eckhart moping around in all his scenes, the film takes on the demeanor of a teenage goth who lives out his welcome in mere minutes. To be fair, Eckhart is left out to dry by a terrible script, from (believe it or not) the writer of Collateral. Few actors could actually say, “That’s the name the gargoyle queen gave me,” and still look good afterwards. Sadly, that howler is only one of the many clunkers in the film. Each scene is crammed with exposition to an illogical degree. There’s a scene where a demon goon is telling the monster all of their plans, right before he intends on killing the monster. Why would the demon do that? Only to move the plot forward in the most contrived way imaginable.
In general, I, Frankenstein makes little sense. After only 16 gargoyles are killed, the monster says they are “low in numbers” and that the demons are now at an advantage. How is that even possible? After one small battle, the gargoyles are almost extinct? If that’s truly the case, then it’s their own fault, because their home base is only a few blocks away from where the head demon hangs his hat. How it took the gargoyles so long to find the demon prince, who they find by stalking the monster for a few blocks in an oddly abandoned city, is anyone’s guess. It only reveals their incompetence, not their power to save humanity.
The same goes for the demons. They as well find the gargoyles’ fortress by tracking the monster. Didn’t they ever consider it’s the building with all the gargoyles on it? All these leaps in logic – like, why not use holy water to kill the demons when it gets the job done so fast? – would’ve been acceptable if they were in support of a worthwhile piece of spectacle, but the result is 93 minutes made up of lulls.
The film is front loaded with action, but then there’s a second act that is all plot and character, so, of course, none of that works. Little in I, Frankenstein does, even on its own goofy terms. A few laughs are to be had, but “a few” can’t make 93 minutes worthwhile. Eckhart is simply not the right actor for this kind of a movie. It’s admirable that he plays everything so seriously, but after all his solemn expressions and line readings, the actor and the film become too serious for their own good.
The Upside: The monster training with weapons on top of a snowy mountain; Bill Nighy actually read the script; some chuckles
The Downside: The world building; the action; Aaron Eckhart; shoddy effects; lethargic direction; all the exposition; even the title card is garish
On The Side: This is director Stuart Beattie’s second film and his American feature debut. His first film is the Australian hit, Tomorrow When the War Began.