×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘I, Frankenstein’

Why so serious? Long on talk and incoherent action, devoid of humor, this listless supernatural actioner surely has Mary Shelley turning in her grave.

With:

Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Bill Nighy, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Aden Young, Caitlin Strasey, Mahesh Jadu, Kevin Grevioux.

It would be premature to suggest this without consulting the archives, but “I, Frankenstein” might very well set some kind of record for the most expository dialogue in a single feature film, with almost every spoken exchange either relaying a convoluted backstory, outlining a nefarious scheme, or describing the actions currently taking place onscreen. In fact, it isn’t until approximately 92 minutes into the film’s 93-minute running time that it even cracks its first joke, when the end credits offer “special thanks” to Mary Shelley. Utterly witless, listless, sparkless and senseless, this supernatural actioner makes one long for the comparative sophistication of the conceptually identical “Underworld” franchise (with which it shares producers and a writer). It should struggle to show many signs of life at the box office.

Starting off in the late 18th century, the film — directed and written by Stuart Beattie, from a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux — gives a more-or-less accurate two-minute rundown of Shelley’s original novel. Yet no sooner has the good Dr. Victor Frankenstein been laid to rest than his monstrous creation (Aaron Eckhart) is beset by a gang of shape-shifting goth demons, and subsequently rescued by some similarly gothy shape-shifting gargoyles, who whisk him away to their urban home base in a Gothic cathedral.

Before we’ve even had a chance to get a clear look at our protagonist’s sutured face, we’re knee-deep in an elaborate mythological backstory delivered with dialogue that would seem drab even in a videogame cutscene. In short, a race of Godly gargoyles, led by Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto, coping heroically with what she’s given), have been fighting a centuries-long battle with a race of demons, lead by Naberius (Bill Nighy). Frankenstein’s monster — duly named “Adam” by Leonore — is wanted by the demons as a blueprint for a whole army of reanimated corpses, while the gargoyles just hope to keep him, and Dr. Frankenstein’s detailed journal, out of the demons’ hands. Adam is uninterested in joining either side, opting instead to endlessly walk the earth, like Caine from “Kung Fu.”

Flash forward two centuries to the present, and Adam happens to mosey his way back to the same unnamed city, where the gargoyles still scowl from rooftops unbeknownst to the (almost entirely unseen) humans below. The evil Naberius, now taking on the disguise of an oily businessman, is still busy trying to iron out the finer points of regeneration, and his crack (two-person) research team is lead by a leggy blonde electrophysiologist named Terra (Yvonne Strahovski). Eventually, Naberius discovers Frankenstein’s journal, and Adam must both recover it and protect Terra in order to stave off “a war that will bring the end of all mankind,” a threat so pressing and cataclysmic that it’s mentioned exactly once.

From here, the film offers a series of choppily edited battle setpieces, some more expository dialogue, and around two dozen slow-motion shots of various irritable creatures crashing through plate-glass windows. When killed, the demons explode into a geyser of whirling fireballs, while the gargoyles are zapped up heavenward in a column of blue light, meaning that almost every fight scene devolves into a blur of epileptic flashing colors within seconds.

But what’s most frustrating is that the film never attempts to explore, exploit, or elaborate on Adam’s origins in the Frankenstein story, to the extent that it’s easy to occasionally forget the film’s entire premise while watching it. (In fact, Eckhart himself disappears from the proceedings with surprising regularity, spending a good bit of time skulking around in the shadows, listening in on various supporting characters as they spout expository dialogue.) The film is also entirely devoid of humor, and so drably chaste that one can’t help but perk up at the slight glimmer of lust in Terra’s eye when she gets a look at the shirtless Adam’s stacked, stitched musculature in a low-lit bedroom. Alas, the size of this particular monster’s schwanzstucker goes totally unexplored.

Director Beattie keeps his camera in constant motion throughout, though it’s sometimes unclear what effect he’s trying to produce. The relentlessly obtrusive score is matched in volume by the sound editing, which renders the rustling of clothes and the turning of pages in a book with floor-quaking resonance. The sets and other production design elements, however, are quite nice to look at when the camera holds still for long enough.

Film Review: 'I, Frankenstein'

Reviewed at Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, January 23, 2014. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 93 MIN.

Production:

(U.S.-Australia) A Lionsgate (in U.S.) release of a Lionsgate/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment presentation of a Hopscotch Features, Lakeshore, Lionsgate and Sidney Kimmel production. Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright, Andrew Mason, Sidney Kimmel. Executive producers, Troy Lum, Eric Reid, David Kern, James McQuaide, Bruce Toll, Jim Tauber, Matt Berenson, Kevin Grevioux.

Crew:

Directed by Stuart Beattie. Screenplay, Beattie, from a screen story by Beattie, Kevin Grevioux, based on the graphic novel by Grevioux. Camera (color), Ross Emery; editor, Marcus D’Arcy; music, Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek; production designer, Michelle McGahey; art director, Simon McCutcheon; costume designer, Cappi Ireland; sound (Datasat/Dolby 7.1/SDDS), Andrew Plain; re-recording mixers, Gethin Creagh, Robert Sullivan; visual effects, Iloura, Method Studios, Luma, Cutting Edge, Rising Son; assistant director, Charles Rotherham; second unit camera, Ian Jones; casting, Nikki Barrett.

With:

Aaron Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Bill Nighy, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Aden Young, Caitlin Strasey, Mahesh Jadu, Kevin Grevioux.

More Film

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content