The challenge of talking about I, Frankenstein is that there’s not very much to talk about. It’s not interesting in a bad way. It’s not funny or offensive or even that terrible. The best way to describe this film is a non-entity. The Frankenstein story has been told many times, and this is an original spin on it. Co-writer Kevin Grevioux writes what he knows, so the Underworld scribe makes a mashed-together monster of a plot, where Frankenstein becomes involved in a war between demons and gargoyles to save humanity. The story is too repetitive for anything else to happen. Frankenstein’s monster (named Adam Frankenstein by the queen of the gargoyles) is attacked by demons and saved by gargoyles. Then he’s attacked by demons and saved by gargoyles again. Along the way, Adam comes across a scientist who he has a desire to save, and he has to make the gargoyles want to accept him onto their side in the war.
The plot does have its good points. It’s a low bar to clear, but the filmmakers mostly resist a romance between Adam (Aaron Eckhart) and the scientist (Yvonne Strahovski). It would have been out of place to include, so it’s refreshing to not see any battle kissing from a major Hollywood production. The opening sequence is also genuinely good. If the movie is going to diverge so greatly from the traditional Frankenstein story, starting with a 3 minute recap of the book was a fine idea. It is the best executed part of I, Frankenstein, partly because it is the only one that lets Eckhart act an emotion and partly because it gives the character a lot of depth in a very little amount of time. Most of acting is as good as anybody could have hoped for with this script. None of the performances stood out as bad, and people like Eckart and gargoyle prince Jai Courtney were clearly trying.
But the script is brutal. I, Frankenstein would rather tell you about itself than let its audience watch it. The entire first act is exposition. Every single line is a gargoyle explaining how/why this war is being fought, (inaccurate) science babble, or Eckhart narrating everything that he sees. He tells us that “Some things changed. Some things did not.” instead of using visuals or acting to show his disconnection from the human race. The motivation of the demons for starting this war is ripped straight from Van Helsing. The demons want to capture Frankenstein so that they can use his technology to reanimate bodies for the demons to take over, creating an army of demons that look like humans. Nobody tries to make the dialogue interesting. Characters have desires, but not feelings. The story is very cold in that way. Adam never feels or likes anything, which makes me not care about whether he achieves his unclear goals.
The fight scenes are a visual assault, bad enough to make you wish that the dialogue would start again. Everything about the look of the film is obnoxious. The color correction is overdone. Every scene is covered in a washed out blue or orange. There is no variety to the color palette. The CGI is awful, which is problematic because there is so much of it. The demon prince, the main antagonist, has the worst effects in the movie. Every demon death is accompanied by a laughable fireball, which always twists in the same pattern of four rotations. The cinematography is repetitive and dizzying. Yes, spinning the camera a full rotation to get a sense of spacing between two characters, or the scope of a large battle, can be very effective, but it loses any of the craft when it’s used over 20 times. Every single fight scene spins the camera across a track around whoever is fighting. This comes off even worse because there is nothing real to grab the focus of the eye on screen. The characters, buildings, and sky are all digital creations, so the concept of a moving camera loses its purpose, because the space created is artificial. The sound doesn’t help at all. Sound mixing is one of those things that most people only notice when it’s done badly. This sound mixing is done badly. The music drowns out the actors throughout the entire climatic fight. Even worse were the drastic volume adjustments that I had to make from scene to scene. The dramatic parts are too quiet and the action parts are too loud.
I, Frankenstein, a title with a stupid sense of punctuation that gets forced into the last lines of the film, is a forgettable bore. It gathers a lot of old ideas and dresses them up as a classic monster reimagined in order to seem new. This could have worked, but the writers refuse to take any risks that could make their creation innovative, or enough self-awareness to make it enjoyable in its silliness. As it is, the movie is too bland to justify spending money to see.