Movie Review – “I, Frankenstein”

We don’t go to movies often, but the trailer for “I, Frankenstein” looked a cut above all the other stuff that’s in theaters right now, and I thought we’d splurge, go sit in a crowded movie theater, and share with strangers the experience of watching a movie on the big screen as three or four hundred “surround” speakers do their best to rupture our eardrums.

As it turned out, Thursdays at 11:50 a.m. is not a bad time to go. There were a scant twenty cars in the entire parking lot, so right off the perennial scowl on my face morphed into a huge smile.

My face soured again when I found out the matinee price jumped to $8/ticket. That sounded steep to me, reinforcing once again my resolve to just wait and rent movies. But still, we were there . . .

We walked the ramp to the number 7 of 14 theater’s seating area, turned the corner, and saw two other people sitting at the center of the first row of elevated seats. The rest of the seats were empty.

. . . they looked at us, we looked at them . . . awkwardness ensued until Melisa spoke up.

We’ll be up in back; try not to make too much noise during the movie.

We all laughed . . . and I wished I’d thought of it first.

We settled in, four of us in the entire theater, prepared for the previews of coming attractions marathon . . . none we are interested in either seeing or renting; this was going to be our last time at the theater for a good long while. If Hollywood keeps this up, my Netflix subscription will be practically worthless in a few months.

Eventually, another guy walked in, sat what I thought was too close to us, and the movie started . . .

Warning: Spoilers (such as they are) ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

OK, where to start . . . oh, yeah . . . the monster is created, he is pissed off, kills Frankenstein’s wife, Frankenstein hunts him all the way to the Arctic(!) but ends up freezing to death, so the monsters takes him back to the Frankenstein family plot for burial (!!). 

That’s not the movie . . . that’s the first few minutes. Right off the bat (there are no bats in the movie, by the way) the monster (played by a seriously ripped Aaron Eckhart) lost any sympathy he might have gotten from me. He killed a woman who did nothing to him instead of killing Frankenstein himself . . . which we later learn he wanted to do (why not confront the good doctor instead of luring him to the Arctic? Who knows; monsters don’t think straight).

The excuse for killing the wife? No soul, you see; no idea of right or wrong; just a selfish monster out for himself, angry at the world, his creator, and anything that moves.

Right there the filmmakers lost any respect I might have given them. I am soulless, and I don’t go around killing women, I do have a rough idea of right and wrong, and am relatively altruistic.

“Ah,” says Frankenstein, the monster, “but there are no others like me; I am one of a kind.”

Pfft! Join the club, bucko!

Anyway, for whatever inane reason, Frankenstein the monster carries Frankenstein’s dead body for what must be at least a couple of thousand miles to bury him in his prepared grave (there was a cross with the name already made up!)

But wait! During the burial these people show up, and want to take him prisoner. The monster, not the dead body.

Before asking them how they knew he was going to be there, the monster kills one, and since they burst into bright orange flames we know they are not human, but creatures who are prone to bursting into flames when killed. However, the remaining creatures pin him down. BUT . . . some Gargoyles wake up and come to kill the other creatures. Say what?

I mean, it was somewhat cool to have the Gargoyles come to life. More so, it was mildly interesting that they turned to human form after dispatching the bad guys. From massive and articulated rock formations, right into human-looking forms dressed in some type of S&M outfits.

Like most movies, the first 10-15 minutes are ‘exposition’ . . . the moviemakers set the stage for the world they are about to show you, but the next scene deals me a severe body blow. Weakened from the soulless insult, I stagger . . .

You see, those weren’t vampires that attacked him. They were demons. And the gargoyles are sub-contractors for the angel Gabriel. Or maybe it was Michael, or one of the other archangels. Yeah, come to think of it, it was Michael, but at that point I did not care.

Regardless . . . not Frankenstein fighting Vampires, as I had assumed from the trailer, but Frankenstein in the middle of a war between Gargoyles and Demons; sort of a bad take-off on the ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ plot, with both warring parties interested in him (the monster) for his qualities. Apparently, surly pissed off unlikable guys are an asset in these kind of wars.

The Gargoyles are led by Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto, or Eowyn)  who is the living conduit for communication between the Gargoyles and God . . . or the archangels, or someone up there. In other words, she’s like the Pope, but instead of a fancy hat, she has a intricate hairdo. Same flowing gowns, though, and just as ineffective beyond telling people what to do.

The Demons are led by the demon-prince Naberius (Bill Nighy, or Billy Mack – although here he was closer to reprising his role as Viktor) who wants to create a bunch of Frankensteins so demons from hell can inhabit their soulless bodies, thus forming an army of darkness to rain destruction down on the Gargoyles and humanity.

For as cunning as Naberius appears, he did not think of using politicians; no reason to harvest bodies, spending millions in research aimed to reanimate dead flesh, and no need to wait for hundreds of years; plenty of soulless dead flesh in many elected offices. Heck; turn them into demons, and hardly anyone would notice.

Naberius is not putting all his eggs in one basket, oh no; he hired Chuck’s main squeeze, who is now doing research in reanimating dead things, to develop the technology to bring the dead back to life.

OK, now I’m going to give you a quick rundown of the rest of the movie before I talk about the characters. Ready?

Frankenstein’s monster is angry and starts to kick demon butt, but gargoyles capture and imprison him because a cop became collateral damage and that is a big no-no, and the monster is too angry and his reckless actions threatens to expose the demon/gargoyle war to the human race, but the demons mount a massive attack to capture the monster back so Chuck’s girlfriend can ‘speriment on him and figure out what makes him tick and make copies, but he escapes both gargoyles and demons, meets up with Chuck’s girlfriend, convinces her demons exist by killing Billy Mack’s right-hand demon, but like every other movie, they split up and she gets captured by the bad guys, so soulless monster goes to rescue her by drawing the gargoyles to the demon’s lair where a big battle ensues, he rescues the girl, kills the bad guy, stops the demon army from waking, and gets redeemed in the eyes of the gargoyles and, after a small hint the monster and Chuck’s girlfriend are now an item, he poses on a rooftop vowing to defend mankind against evil, finally admitting his legacy . . . I, Frankenstein. 

Why would he need to do that? The demons were all destroyed . . . except this one guy who grabbed the program necessary for reanimating corpses, and hightailed it out of there before the demons hit the fan. Can you smell the setup for a sequel?

Did you follow all that? Good. Now, let me tell you about the characters.

The monster remains unlikable throughout the film. Basically, he killed a woman, is selfish, hot-headed, unrepentant, is inconsistent in what he can and cannot do, has a secret lair of his own which is basically a dump in an abandoned building, but has medical equipment and stuff in a medicine cabinet even though the cabinet looks like it has not been opened since the early 1900s. Most off all, despite the repeated claims, he does in fact have a soul, the lying bastard! Much as I’ve learned in life, you can’t trust people with souls.

The Gargoyles are unlikable as they are not smart, have not embraced modern clothing, and act all full of themselves. Two in particular are annoying . . . Eowyn and her gargoyles commander, Gideon. Eowyn pretty much makes all the wrong calls throughout the movie, and does little else. Gideon is a pissed off second-in-command who just wants to kill, and he too makes all the wrong calls before getting himself killed by his own battle ax. One other thing, when gargoyles die, they ascend, sending up beacons that are visible for what must surely be hundreds of miles . . . way to go keeping the war secret from the humans. I mentioned they are not very smart . . . Frankenstein leads them to the Demon’s secret lair which turns out to be a couple of blocks from the cathedral from where the gargoyles keep watch over the city. My guess is they can’t see all that well.

The demons at least wear decent clothes (suits), and use technology. They seem a lot smarter than the gargoyles (they know the gargoyles live up high in the cathedral), make better plans, and seem dedicated to the mission. Billy Mack is his usual likable self, and until he changes into ugly, you almost want to pull for the guy based on charm alone. His right-hand-demon is a sympathetic figure from Underworld, so that’s also a plus. And Zuriel, Billy Mack’s most formidable warrior, is unafraid to go one-on-one with Frankenstein, and after defeating the monster, is only brought down by treachery. Other than for their plan to destroy or enslave mankind, these are basically decent guys. They do go up in bright orange flames when killed, and the flames are visible for miles, so they too are advertising the war with a light show.

Chuck’s girlfriend plays an unconvincing doctor, and provides the human element to the movie. She too is not very smart, or capable of making rational decisions. After giving Frankenstein’s manual “Piece by Piece: How to Build the Big Guy” the once-over, she is suddenly an expert in reanimating corpses. Still, when she is recaptured by the demons she bravely refuses to help them, vowing that she would die instead. So they kill her lab assistant. This is where it gets stupid . . . she knows for a fact their aim is to enslave or subjugate humankind; handing the demons the technology to reanimate dead flesh would doom her and all mankind, but that is exactly what she does in order to save her assistant, even though she knows he will then be nothing more than a soulless vessel for a yet-to-be-named demon.

So, let’s recap . . . no likable characters, and all but the bad guys have limited reasoning skills. No motivation from any of the major characters other than selfish motives. The only two human representatives are a poor example of our species, one betraying his friend at a drop of a demon, and the other willing to destroy humanity to bring him back to life.

The action is OK, I guess, even though the monster’s abilities range from falling great distances and getting up unharmed to falling great distances and laying there incapacitated. The gargoyles do not look aerodynamically sound while flying, and should have dropped like, you know, statues. The demons monologued too much (how Zuriel ends up getting killed), and the final battle results in a 200-yards diameter flaming pit with a direct path to hell . . . another thing I’m sure the humans will fail to notice after the dust settles.

We generously give this movie a 4.3302 out of a possible 11.1113, partly for the fights which, while visually interesting, were inconsistent in intensity and details, but mostly for the fact we shared the entire theater with a total of three other people.  

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Happiness is an accepting smile
Happiness is an accepting smile

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