Achieving Bad: Nothing redeems ‘I, Frankenstein’

Feb 11 • Art, ARTSY SMARTSY, FEATURE BOTTOM, FilmNo Comments on Achieving Bad: Nothing redeems ‘I, Frankenstein’

There’s a quote from the movie “Billy Madison” that often springs to mind when I watch something that I can only describe as “mind numbing.” It’s toward the end when Billy (Adam Sandler) is participating in an academic debate with his arch-nemesis Eric (Bradley Whitford). At the completion of his answer, the moderatior declares:

“What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

This is how I felt while sitting through the new movie “I, Frankenstein,” except that I would extend the filmmakers no mercy.

I walked into “I, Frankenstein” expecting something dumb. I was hoping for “dumb fun” or “so bad it’s good.” What I got was a humorless, garish spectacle that felt like everyone involved was trying to club me in the eyes and ears.

Frankenstein’s monster, named Adam (Aaron Eckhart), starts the movie at the end of the original story. The rejected monster kills Frankenstein’s love and then is chased into the arctic where his creator dies. Interesting enough idea, I suppose. There’s certainly intrigue behind posing the question of what happened to Frankenstein’s monster after Mary Shelly’s original story ends. Instead of taking a more tailored and nuanced approach, the filmmakers decide to take the character on an acid trip.

After he buries his creator, Adam is attacked by demons, only to be saved by the heroic gargoyles. He’s taken to the gargolye queen (Miranda Otto) who explains to him that gargoyles were created by the archangel Michael to battle demonic forces and asks him to join their ranks. Adam decides that hanging with gargoyles really isn’t his thing. He tells them he’s a loner, a rebel, the kind of bad news undead creature who doesn’t work well with others. So, he heads off into the darkness, and the demons continue to pursue Adam for reasons that are at first unclear. Cut to modern times where Adam is walking the earth with a mopey expression on his face; he’s trying to deal with the constant threat of the demon hordes.

It turns out the demon prince, Naberius (Bill Nighy), wants Adam for some experiments of his own. He has plans that involve a legion of the undead and needs Frankenstein to unlock the secret of regeneration in order to conquer the world or something. What, I’m not entirely sure. It was right around this time I started nodding off and struggled to find the energy to maintain focus. This is less a film and more of an endurance test—a gauntlet of awful that almost dares its audience to try to enjoy the film.

“I, Frankenstein” is cut from the “Underworld” mold—a series of semi-successful movies about vampires and werewolves interlocked in an eternal war. It was high on action and style, and low on brain cells. “I, Frankenstein” makes “Underworld” and its subsequent sequels feel like “The Godfather”—well, “The Godfather III,” anyway. The whole movie comprises ridiculous dialogue, an utterly senseless plot, and the kind of action sequences that have no weight because they’re all rendered on computers. Everything about “I, Frankenstein” feels fake.

It had the potential to be one of those awesome over-the-top horror/sci-fi mash-ups, like “Frankenstein Unbound.” But the film never allows itself to be anything other than a sterile, eternally dark serious mess. Even the one or two quality actors in the movie only give one note to play over repeatedly, like a 2-year-old blowing into a recorder. They provide the acting equivalent of a high-pitched, shrill whistle being blared over and over again.

I have to wonder what a talented actor like Aaron Eckhart is doing in dreck like this. This is the kind of project that makes me question whether or not his management and handlers have an expensive drug habit that this movie helped subsidize. It’s like the film was genetically modified to be joyless. It feels created to appeal to a 12-year-old Hot Topic shopper.

Like the aforementioned “Billy Madison” quote, I came out the other side feeling dumber for the experience and couldn’t even enjoy it as ridiculous garbage. There are few critics out there as forgiving of junk as I am, and even I couldn’t find a single, solitary thing to like about “I, Frankenstein.” This is a level of bad few films ever achieve.


I, Frankenstein

Zero stars!

Directed by Stuart Beattie

Starring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto |

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