Movie Review: I, Frankenstein

Theaters are marketing I, Frankenstein as an action-horror movie. It is intended to be thrillingly dark, or at least darkly thrilling. Instead, it turned out to be something of a comedy.The film, loosely based on Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, hit theaters on Jan. 24, and it flopped big time. Its Rotten Tomatoes ratings are in the single digits. Still, I, Frankenstein appears to have potential. The creators of the Underworld series produced it. They enjoy a cult following – and with good reason. But there is just no denying that I, Frankenstein is an appallingly bad film. The plot is lame at best, making use of the ancient idea of a war between supernatural entities. Of course, this film subs in demons and gargoyles – read: ugly angels – for the go-to choices of vampires and werewolves. The film is also chock full of forced religious overtones, taking a bizarrely biblical turn when the gargoyle queen christens Frankenstein’s monster Adam. And the good-evil divide is disappointingly obvious. Spoiler alert: The monster is not the bad guy here. And, of course, the science is a joke. It certainly was incredible back in 1818 when Shelley wrote about an impassioned scientist reanimating a corpse one dark and stormy night using lightning. But apparently the creators of this movie believed that this little origin story is unscientific and in need of some updating. So, what source of electricity does Dr. Frankenstein actually use, according to this version of the tale? Electric eels. It is not lightning that shocked this apparently immortal beast alive but the current conducted by several electric eels. Sorry, what? The acting is not the worst ever, but it’s certainly not great. Aaron Eckhart’s performance as the monster/Adam/Frankenstein is rather unsatisfying. He doesn’t exactly have clever lines to work with – other than “Descend in pain, demon!” of course, which is just brilliant writing – but his delivery is actually laughable at times. It’s easy to forget that this guy played Harvey Dent not to mention Two-Face in The Dark Knight. Yvonne Strahovski of the TV series “Chuck” is also underwhelming in her role as a 21st-century scientist. She simply isn’t passionate enough about her work to be interesting or even convincing, and she and Eckhart have zero chemistry. Bill Nighy is reasonably creepy in his role as the demon prince, but his performance feels a little derivative of that of the Underworld series’ evil head vampire. A quick Internet Movie Database search reveals that this is because he was, in fact, that head vampire. Not only is the character the same but the actor is also the same. The aspect of this movie that has the potential to be really impressive is the effects, but even those are lackluster. The computer-generated imagery just isn’t cutting it, especially when it comes to the gargoyles, which could easily be flying straight out of an early-2000s fantasy PC game. It’s kind of cool when the demons “descend” to hell in red flames and the gargoyles “ascend” to heaven in beams of blue-white light, but it just makes one wonder what the supposedly ignorant humans think of that particular spectacle. Fireworks, maybe? The Northern Lights? It’s simply too ridiculous not to question. Still, my one final and most important question regarding this rather pitiful piece of modern cinema is this: Eels? Really?