Victor Frankenstein (Aden Young) created life — “it’s alive!” or in the case of this movie “it’s leaden and sluggish!” — in the form of a horrible monster (Aaron Eckhart). The monster — who we know is a monster because he has stitch-scars on his face and wears smudgy eye make-up — killed Frankenstein’s wife and then ran off. Frankenstein froze to death trying to track the monster as it wandered into the Arctic.
The monster found Frankenstein and took him back to his family plot to bury him, wherein he was attacked and almost captured by a group of demons. He was saved in part by Keziah (Caitlin Stasey) and Ophir (Mahesh Jadu), gargoyles, who are the warriors for good in a whole good-vs.-evil battle that has been taking place on Earth since the dawn of time. Gargoyles:
• Can fly
• Can transform into the stone-decoration things we associate with the word “gargoyle” and can also, thanks to some surprisingly amateurish CGI, move around as these creatures.
• Are ruled by a gargoyle queen named Leonore (Miranda Otto).
• Use the magic of CGI to turn into something that looks like a mask you bought at a discount costume store.
• Turn into swirls of flame when killed. (If you saw any heavy metal cover band’s MySpace page circa 2006 you will be familiar with this effect.)
• Are hunting Frankenstein’s monster to learn the secrets of reanimating the dead.
This last demon fact is due to an order from demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy — who, much like actor Michael Sheen, isn’t afraid to slum it and have some fun in crappy fantasy movies). Naberius wants to use the reanimation technology to make an army of demons.
The gargoyle warriors want to destroy the monster and all of Frankenstein’s notes, but Leonore feels the monster might one day develop a soul and aid the gargoyles in the fight against the demons, so she lets him live and gives him the name Adam. FrankenAdam doesn’t know from demons or gargoyles and just wants to be left alone, which works for a few centuries until the demons find him and start hunting him again. So he decides to turn the tables and hunt down all the demons he can find, leading him back to some city that is the gargoyle headquarters, let’s say modern day Inglostadt. Here, Naberius is now a nattily dressed businessman who has hired scientists, including the brainy Terra (Yvonne Strahovski), to work on the reanimation question. They think that Frankenstein and his monster are just a myth and that their work will help people, never suspecting the clash of CGI-creatures that is happening on green screens all around them.
So we’re only two terrible “What am I watching? Is this a real movie?” movies in to 2014 and the rules of journalism require me to get three before I can label it a trend but — here’s hoping! I am giddy with the prospect of 2014 being the year when movies aren’t just fine or so-so but completely hair-on-fire, operatically terrible. (For the record: I’d be pretty happy if we could have a year of awesome movies. But based on the last few weeks, that does not appear to be where 2014 is going.) I, Frankenstein, like The Legend of Hercules only a few weeks ago, is a glittering jewel of awful film-making. If you wanted to teach a class on making the worst movies possible, this January would already have filled the first half of your syllabus.
For example, allow me to present some of the lines of dialogue. Please imagine each of these said with complete earnestness and with the “Acting! I’m Acting!” turned up to 11:
• “I’ve come to destroy you.” — FrankenAdam to Naberius
• “Descend in pain, demon!” — FrankenAdam to one of the demons he kills.
• “You contain the answers so many seek.” Someone (Terra, I think) to FrankenAdam, to which he responds “I seek my own answers.”
• “You are only a monster if you behave like one.” Someone (again, Terra probably) to FrankenAdam. She may have said this to him during a scene in which she bandages his wounds (out of which red blood flows —huh?) back at his apartment after a fight. He, of course, has to take off his shirt and appears to flex while looking at himself in the mirror. Because Victor Frankenstein specifically put “guns, six pack” on the list of body parts he needed when he was sewing together his monster.
Other fun facts about the dialogue:
• Everything FrankenAdam says is in gravelly Batman voice, which I think is supposed to make him sound monstrous but really just makes him sound like he’s fighting a cold.
• Every line that includes the words “gargoyle queen” is hilarious.
• Speaking of Frankenstein-ing: much of the dialogue feels like it was cut and pasted, ransom-note-style, from other scripts. A bit of dialogue that goes something like “look after yourself; it’s what you’re good at” seems cribbed from Star Wars, and if your movie has started stealing dialogue from a George Lucas movie, dude, you’re not even doing unoriginality right.
I, Frankenstein also features a scene where a “loading”-style bar tells you what percent reanimated a corpse is (thusly can we get increasingly closer to 100 percent as characters fight cheap-looking, poorly choreographed battles). And, spoiler alert, the final spoken words of this heavily narrated movie are “I [dramatic pause] Frankenstein!” I could go on, but maybe some day you and a friend will have some booze and two hours to kill and you’ll want to spend some time watching this and I don’t want to completely spoil the experience for you. Bad movies are released all the time but I, Frankenstein is so thoroughly and unapologetically terrible on every level that it really is special. F
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout. Directed by Stuart Beattie with a screenplay by Beattie (based on a graphic novel by Kevin Greviox and characters by Mary Shelley), I, Frankenstein is an hour and 32 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate.
As seen in the January 30, 2014 issue of the Hippo.