Cast: Aaron Ekhart, Miranda Otto, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski
The Premise: Gargoyles and Demons have been locked in a war for centuries and only Frankenstein’s Monster can stop it.
We pick up after the final events of Mary Shelley’s original story; Dr. Frankenstein is dead and his Monster is carrying him back from the North Pole to be burring in the family plot. Mid burial a group of Demons descend upon the Monster and, with the help of humanity’s allies, The Gargoyles, the Monster defeats the Axis and is whisked off to an unnamed city to learn that he is the pivotal piece in whether the world will be ravages by Lucifer’s Demons.
Adam nee Frankenstein’s Monster (Aaron Ekhart, Paycheck, 2003) will have none of it and leaves the bright lights of the big city to pursue a solitary life in the wild but, for 200 years, no matter where he hides The Demons find him. With no peace to be had, Adam makes the destruction of Demons his life’s work until the Gargoyles learn he is back in unnamed town and the leader of The Demons learns the same. The hunt is on as to who will acquire the abomination and whether God will prevail or the secret to soulless immortality brings a legion of demons from Hell to devour the Earth.
I, Frankenstein insists it’s an Epic but appears to be a stage play. Taking place in two locations, The Gargoyle church and The Demon’s mansion. If this were TV one might call this a bottle episode with a higher budget.
Wrought with weak story and cardboard characters this action film made for 10 year olds does little to surprise and even less to stimulate. Based on a comic written by Kevin Grevioux who also co-wrote the first Underworld movie we now clearly see that Len Wiseman was the quality writer in that relationship and not Grevioux. Someone please forward the basics of story writing to Mr. Grevioux because he clearly does not understand the fundamentals of Show Don’t Tell.
The film is all exposition accented with sweeping crane shots that whisk out of windows to reveal the Gothic Cathedral that is the centrepiece of the film. Although Leonore (Miranda Otto, Cashmere Mafia, 2008), the leader of the Gargoyles makes mention that because Adam Frankenstein is alive but without a soul he can be possessed by the Demons we never see what the repercussions are. In a city queerly devoid of people, save for one policeman and, a few drunk people at a club, the empty threat of destroying the world is lost on the viewer. We can assume that it would be troublesome if Demons walked among us but in a film, dear Gravioux, you need to show us.
When Adam is brought the Gargoyles a second time after fighting off many Demons and, unfortunately an innocent bystander is killed (off screen, mind you) Leonore expresses her disgust that the secret war between each side might be found out yet the gargantuan Gargoyles flit around the skyline in plain sight as if it were a beautiful summer’s day. Still no one knows? When hundreds of Demons take to the streets to descend on the headquarters of the Gargoyles not a human, not a police car, not a news van makes an appearance. As lights from the dying Gargoyles take their souls to Heaven and Fiery ribbons bring the dead Demons to Hell nobody opens up a window to shake a fist at the night, “Keep it down you crazy kids.”
Played with his usual relish, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, 2003) slinks through his role as Naberius calmly insists his will on his men but, what of his plan? His entire domination of Earth is based on the rumour of one assumed mythical Dr. Viktor Frankenstein reanimating a corpse that when you stare awestruck! at the cavernous and elaborate underground layer of countless dead and rotting bodies hanging on a giant electrical generator you wonder if you missed something. Yes, the actors read the script but we did not. Nabarius’ plot being that a reanimated corpse does not have a soul and as such a Demon can embody it and take on the world. I argue that, up until modern day Naberius is unaware that the body of Frankenstein’s monster can even handle the stress of a demon soul but alas he spends his questionable but innumerable wealth to construct a machine to do just that.
All the while, the scientists that are working for Naberius -to master the art of reanimation- have devised a marvel of modern technology just to bring a rat to life. When the first onscreen test happens one scientist pushes the amount of electricity higher and higher while the other argues that it is too much, to which she insists that the animal is already dead, how much more harm can they do. This begs the question of how bad these two are at their job, for after the journal of Dr. Frankenstein is found and it is finally revealed that it takes 15,000 Joules of electricity to reanimate a corpse (3 electric eels, if you didn’t know) a man listening in a secret room punches that number in a secret machine that is connected to the bodies in the basement. Kaboom! End of civilization is a countdown timer away. But again, you wonder, what were the legit scientists doing in that state of the art room with those dead rats, that they did not just keep upping the electricity.
The modern day action movie is much like porn or old musicals, the story is a means to get to the car chase or the fight but, what everyone seems to forget is that it is the story that keeps people coming back and not simply running to Youtube to watch the Highlight reel. Which one could forgive them if the action were not so boring or confusing. All the demons and Gargoyles are cookie cutters that, save for when Gargoyles take their true shape (with wings) all you are watching is moody shapes beating each other until either a bright blue light or a bright red light is emitted to remind you who is winning.
Director Stuart Beattie does his able best to hide the fact that the story is missing by distracting us with fancy camera moves and fast cuts between scenes. Cribbing his flashy camera style from Sam Raimi he pushes in on lines and pulls out for reveals but never grasps that the difference between him and Raimi is Raimi has a great script to work with. Every time the camera passes over an object or something passes the frame a “whooshing” sound is heard and you suspect that teenage Beattie must have worn out his bootleg VHS copy of The Evil Dead. A clueless Beattie must have been heard to say, I don’t know why but that is cool.
The great embarrassment is that Beattie has his name on many Hollywood blockbusters -with little more story than this- that raked in the dough that until we the consumer stop going to such films as G.I.Joe, 30 Days of Night, or Heaven Help Me! The Pirates of the Caribbean he is going to think that he is doing a good job. I am hear to tell you, Mr. Beattie, you are not doing a good job.
—— The Denouement
Granted movies are escapism, and if I was 13 years old I would be all over this but, that does not make this a good movie. And, even if my 13 year old self were to have loved this film I would not love it still today. It is an embarrassment that the Hollywood system gives story a back seat to getting those three trailer moments and stellar opening weekend numbers.
The paper-thin plot and one-note characters make for a boring tromp through what could have been a fun Summer movie that even the studio relegated to hiding it in January while everyone else is talking about the Oscars.