Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Fantasy Action and Violence throughout
Directed by: Stuart Beattie
Written by: Stuart Beattie
(based on the graphic novel I, FRANKENSTEIN by Kevin Grevioux)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney & Kevin Grevioux
Mary Shelley’s classic gets the UNDERWORLD treatment in I, FRANKENSTEIN. The end result looks like an iffy idea somehow was granted a budget and thrown into wide theatrical release. It received bad publicity from critics, worse word-of-mouth from audiences, and was a domestic flop (it has barely made its money back from foreign markets). I, FRANKENSTEIN is damned with the fate of eventually airing on the Syfy Channel repeatedly and it deserves every second of that demise. However, there’s also a trashy sense of fun that comes with this territory. It’s ridiculous, ludicrous, stupid and yet a few elements of the film somehow managed to get something (however fleeting it may be) right. This is a bad movie, but it’s not a total failure, mainly due to a fast pace and a cool landscape.
After an extremely condensed montage of Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN (some details being removed so certain scenes can make sense later on), we witness Frankenstein’s creation burying his deceased master only to encounter a few demons in a graveyard. Frankenstein kills the demons and is captured by a band of gargoyles to discover that a war has been waging between the two for centuries. Reluctant to join with either side, the creature now named Adam (one of the few creative decisions that actually makes any sense) takes to the wilderness. Cut to a near future, Adam has returned to the city to hunt some demons hunting him. He finds himself caught right in between an escalating war between the hellish legion and the heavenly gargoyles. His life can be used as a weapon for either side. You do the math as to what happens next.
The world of I, FRANKENSTEIN admittedly looks good. I’m not talking about the monster effects (those are downright laughable), but the setting itself is neat. I dug the atmosphere the movie had, even if it gets lost in a fray of chaotic fantasy-battles along the way. I’ve seen a lot worse than I, FRANKENSTEIN and enjoyed it on a bad B-movie level. It is very much still a bad B-movie though and suffers from a lot of problems. The main one being that the script here is a total disaster. Nothing makes much sense and it’s all kind of stitched together in the same sense that the title monster is. The actors don’t seem to be putting any effort into their performances. I can’t really fault them on this though given the material they’re working with. If I had to rank one cast member as the most entertaining to watch, it’s definitely Bill Nighy. He’s reprising his role as the evil vampire lord from the UNDERWORLD series, but is given the different title of Demon Prince and keeps the same hammy villain characteristics.
Some classic horror stories were meant to be left in their original state and Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN appears to be one of them. The UNDERWORLD style doesn’t suit the wooden creature and the everything involving the heavenly war seems completely out-of-place. It’s unfortunate that the entire movie revolves around those ideas, because there might have been a cool “sequel” to the tale of science gone wrong if a few creative juices injected into the mix. Instead director/writer Stuart Beattie liberally rips off parts of VAN HELSING (an even worse monster mash than this flick), but that also might be attributed to the graphic novel is adapting.
It seems pointless to talk about everything that’s wrong or mediocre with I, FRANKENSTEIN in lots of detail. At this point, most people already know if they even want to bother with this horror-action-fantasy. Judging from the box office numbers, not a whole lot of people did. Which all suits the film just fine. This belongs on Syfy Channel and I almost mean that as a bit of a back-handed compliment. It’s a guilty pleasure in some senses and not nearly as awful as it originally appeared. There’s something to be said for lowered expectations, but the movie’s pacing (only a 92-minute run time) seems as frantic to get everything over with as the audience watching the movie.
I, FRANKENSTEIN is quite dumb, but it’s never boring or dull. As convoluted and stupid as the plot is, I was never infuriated by the film. I also had never imagined in my wildest dreams that Frankenstein’s monster would be seen on the big screen (or really anywhere) battling winged gargoyles through crumbling buildings or taking on a demon prince in a laboratory. Hey, I guess it exists. It’s a bad movie, but there’s some campy entertainment value to be seen in it. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if it were on the Syfy Channel and I had friends over at the time, then I wouldn’t mind switching it on for a few good laughs. It’s that kind of movie. Take that as you will.