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“I, FRANKENSTEIN” (Movie Review)

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“I’m a dozen used parts from eight different corpses,” says Adam (Aaron Eckhart), a.k.a. you-know-who’s monster, in I, FRANKENSTEIN. Which is appropriate, since this film is made up of a dozen used parts from eight different movies.

The initial inspiration was apparently to go back to Mary Shelley’s classic novel and return Victor Frankenstein’s creation to his original conception—not a bolt-necked, barely articulate hulk but a well-spoken, full cognizant being questing for his humanity. Under writer/director Stuart Beattie, however, Adam is reduced to being the MacGuffin in yet another cinematic conflict between two fantastic races that have been warring for centuries, existing undetected among the human world, with the head baddie plotting to raise an invincible inhuman army, etc., etc. (Even if the poster didn’t inform you, it would be easy to tell that this is “From the producers of UNDERWORLD.”) Adam’s part in all this is to clobber legions of computer-generated foes using elaborate martial-arts moves he apparently taught himself during 200 years of self-imposed exile, deliver lines like “Descend in pain, demon” and occasionally take off his shirt. Boris Karloff never knew how good he had it.

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Now, about that “undetected among humans” thing… As we see in a prologue, immediately following the last events written by Shelley (who gets a Special Thanks in the end credits, which she might be able to read if she weren’t spinning in her grave), Frankenstein’s creation fights off a demon attack and is then brought to a stronghold where Miranda Otto manages to keep a straight face while saying, “I’m Leonore, queen of the Gargoyle Order.” It is she who names him Adam and invites him to join her cause, but he decides he wants none of their fight against evil and retreats to the woods. After he changes his mind two centuries later, makes his way to a city with no name and wastes some baddies outside a nightclub, he winds up back at Leonore’s place, where she chastises him for his conspicuous actions that might draw attention from the ordinary populace. Apparently, none of these citizens have ever noticed that their metropolis is dominated by a huge cathedral festooned with gargoyles that come to life and swoop through the air, and Beattie attempts to fudge the issue by never having any humans on its streets, or reacting to the ever-more-apocalyptic battles taking place on or above them.

One of the few people we do see is Dr. Wade (Yvonne Strahovski), an “electrophysiologist” working on reanimation experiments for Charles Wessex (Bill Nighy, also from UNDERWORLD), unaware that he is actually Naberius, ruler of the demons. He has provided her with all the flashy computer equipment money can buy, but apparently doesn’t pay her much of a salary because her apartment is a dump that looks like it has been recently firebombed. The movie in general has the same dark, dystopian look we’ve seen countless times before, the supernatural skirmishes employ the same digital fireballs and slow motion we’ve seen countless times before and Beattie plays it all with solemn seriousness, which seems particularly misguided since his script is full of silly exposition and lines like “I think your boss is a demon prince” and “Call every gargoyle you can spare!”

Eckhart is an interesting choice for a melancholy monster, but is let down by a scenario that has the other characters tell him how lost and lonely he is far more than he actually gets to demonstrate or deal with it. Strahovski is serviceable in a role so lacking in individual character that she never gets a first name on screen, while deep-voiced Kevin Grevioux, who originated the screen story based on his graphic novel, gets to watch his concept turned into high-priced schlock, with an especially illogical blow-everything-up ending, as one of Wessex/Naberius’ minions. As Wessex/Naberius himself, Nighy goes through the entire movie looking pained.

As well he should.

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Ken Michaels
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