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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

I, Frankenstein review: beware, for it is pointless

I Frankenstein red light Aaron Eckhart

It’s alive! In a technical sense: images flicker on the screen, etc. But it is a soulless, unholy monstrosity. Behold: the movie without a protagonist!
I’m “biast” (pro): the basic premise has possibilities; I like Eckhart a lot

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer didn’t inspire hope

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s alive! In a technical sense, anyway. Images flicker on the screen. Dialogue and sound FX emanate in sync. Etc. But it is a soulless, unholy monstrosity. Behold: the movie without a protagonist!

You kinda don’t even notice at first, because this is one of those movies in which you can never figure out whom you’re supposed to be rooting for and none of the characters are likable or even mildly interesting. But in this case it’s because there actually is no character — not even a dull, unappealing one — around which what passes for a plot revolves. You might think it would be Frankenstein’s creation, dubbed Adam (Aaron Eckhart [Olympus Has Fallen], whom we should all feel terrible for), except he shows up pretty much only to take a look around and say to the other nonprotagonists. “Fuck this shit, I’m outta here.”

The shit is the war between demons, who are bad, and gargoyles who are good, which Adam stumbles into in the 1790s, soon after his creation. He wants nothing to do with it, or with humanity, so he disappears to do stuff and things all by himself for 200-plus years. Now it’s today, because Adam is apparently immortal, and he still wants nothing to do with gargoyles or demons or people, and he continues to do nothing of any significance. Then, about three-quarters of the way through this tedious exercise in horror-fantasy posturing, suddenly there crops up a reason for him to be present at all in the videogame scenario we’ve been endlessly enduring. If a story is one person’s journey, Adam spends most of this flick sitting on the side of the road, denying that he is even looking for a lift and adamantly refusing to stick his thumb out, because cars suck.

In the meantime, we are treated to a bland pastiche of Underworld — a universe that is itself already unacceptably banal — complete with the presence of Bill Nighy (About Time), who should know that there’s only so much leeway his awesomeness allows him. (Like Underworld, this is the creation of comic writer Kevin Grevioux, who is no mad scientist.) The 3D is crappy: it’s blurry and nauseating too often. The worldbuilding is crappy: humans can see the supernatural pyrotechnics of demon-vs-gargoyle battle, except when they can’t; the entirely absent God character everyone keeps talking about is maddeningly undefined. It’s almost quite literally a godawful mess.

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I, Frankenstein (2014)
US/Can release: Jan 24 2014
UK/Ire release: Jan 29 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated MM for an extended graphic monster mash
MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout
BBFC: rated 12A (contains moderate fantasy violence)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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