Monday, February 3, 2014

I, FRANKENSTEIN Is Eye-Rollingly Bad


- Every year, usually in January or February, a movie or two comes along that has all the makings of a future cult-classic. It may be a movie that's good-but-weird. It may be a cheesy-but-awesome B-movie. It may be a so-bad-it's-amazing midnight movie. But here's the thing: I, FRANKENSTEIN is none of those things. Nope, not all that is bad is good-bad. Some films are just flat-out terrible, I, FRANKENSTEIN is indeed one of those films. It's horrendous.

I was hoping this would have some redeeming quality, because I'm a big proponent of movies that are unabashedly bat$#%& crazy. And this one is, if anything, pretty much insane. The plot is pretty much something that a really, really nerdy sixth-grader would write, at a point when their literary influences included  the backs of Magic: The Gathering cards and old episodes of Thundercats. The movie uses the classic Frankenstein story - as told in Mary Shelley's novel - as a jumping off point. It then takes Frankenstein's monster and plops him down into some giant war between evil demons and good (but sort of douchey) gargoyles. Yes, this is a movie about a war between demons and gargoyles, where of course totally unawares humans are caught in the middle. As you might already have guessed (?), Frankenstein's monster is the key to the demons' plans for world domination, because he is a sentient creature, yet he has no soul. Thus, he is the perfect vessel for the demons to inhabit and create an earthbound, conquering army. Of course, the demons just need to discover the secret to ol' Doc Frankenstein's reanimation experiments, so that they cap replicate and mass-produce his work.

Now, I love all things Frankenstein. And dammit all, like any red-blooded American guy who grew up with the Gargoyles cartoon, I love me some gargoyles. But I, FRANKENSTEIN is an abject lesson that no matter how cool the various disparate elements of a movie premise may be, that means exactly jack if the writing - and all other aspects of the movie's production - are insultingly stupid.

The writing and plotting here is just groan-inducingly bad. There isn't anything cool, clever, or engrossing about these characters or this story. It can all be pretty-much summed up by this: going in, I was sort of joking with friends about how the movie would probably end with an Aaron Eckhart monologue that was something along the lines of "I ... ____, I ... ____, I ... Frankenstein." I didn't actually expect that the movie would end that way. BUT IT DOES. Sorry, Spoiler Alert.

Speaking of Eckhart, he really brings nothing to this film. The guy is clearly an excellent actor, in general. And you know what, the idea of him as Frankenstein's Monster is, to me, an appealing one. If nothing else, he's got the right look for the part. But he plays this version of the Monster - named Adam - as a sort of emo, personality-lacking brute who would be better suited to the YA version of Shelley's story that will, inevitably, one day be made.

And I just sort of felt bad for poor Yvonne Strahovski. I was rooting for her in this, her first big action-movie part, post-Chuck. On Chuck, she was badass and likable, a mix of beauty, brains, and toughness. The actress was pitch-perfect as a comic book superspy. But here? As a top-shelf, super-genius scientist? Not so much. There's also zero, nada, zilch chemistry between Eckhart and Strahovski, and the script also makes no real attempt to create any real sparks. All I can say is, I hope that Strahovski is able to redeem herself a bit in the upcoming new season of 24.

Bill Nighy, as head demon Naberius, is the only one who seems to have a clue that he should be hamming it up and embracing the movie's silliness. He at least seems to be having fun as the movie's villain, though honestly, the character - as written - is so lame that he can only do so much to make him watchable. The other name actors in the film - from Miranda Otto to Jai Courtney - are totally forgettable.

At least the visuals must be sort of cool, right? Nope, not really. One or two scenes are vaguely interesting from a visual level, but mostly, the action is just a blur of CGI shapes, with barely any sense of scope or epicness. Up close, the gargoyles are admittedly kind of geeky-cool, but the demons look a step below the monsters-of-the-week from an old Buffy episode.

What kills me about I, FRANKENSTEIN is that, despite its midnight movie-ready premise, it takes itself so deathly seriously that there's really no fun to be had. Even Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, while pretty damn bad, had some cheese-value. I, FRANKENSTEIN, in some alternate universe where it doesn't completely suck, is meant to be some sort of huge fantasy epic that spawns sequels with Underworld-esque abandon. But hey, for all their flaws, at least the Underworld flicks had style and cool-factor. I, FRANKENSTEIN is quite simply dorky, in the worst way possible. Bland where it should be chic, boring where it should be exciting, and eye-rollingly bad where it should be campy fun, I, FRANKENSTEIN is every bit as craptacular as its lame-ass title implies.

My Grade: D-

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