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I, Frankenstein

January 24, 2014

The best thing I can say about I, Frankenstein is that I appreciated the costumer’s choice to put the female scientist in flats rather than heels. I know female scientists and engineers, and they generally don’t like to wear heels because heels are impractical but they make your butt look nice. On film, it’s important that a woman’s butt looks nice, or at least that’s what I infer from the decisions to have most female characters wear heels even when it makes no sense. Sometimes they try to disguise it by having the actress wear clunky wedge heels but you can spot it. The stealth heel is useful to balance actor heights, since sometimes you just end up with a leading lady who’s five foot nothing and a leading man who is a foot or so taller than her.

So yes, the best thing about this movie is the costumer’s decision to give the lady-scientist flats.

That’s really the only good thing to come out of this film.

Has that sunk in?

I could end this review right now and you would know all of the good aspects of I, Frankenstein. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? I went into this film thinking it would at least be so bad it turned back around again but it wasn’t. It was just straight up bad.

With the exception of a few establishing shots at the very beginning, this entire film takes place at night. In fact, I am fairly certain that the majority of the story takes place in the span of about six hours. The timeline isn’t entirely clear, but at some point the clock strikes midnight and at the end the sun is rising so I can only assume this movie takes place over the course of roughly six to ten hours.

As we learn in the first fifteen minutes of the film, and will be told continuously again throughout its run, there is a secret war between Gargoyles (who are servants of the Archangel Michael because check out this cool urban fantasy twist guys) and Demons (who are just straight up demons, nothing special there) that will supposedly determine the fate of mankind. Everyone talks about how this will affect mankind nearly constantly, but no one actually explains it beyond that. In fact, there’s so few human characters in this story that I actually wonder if they matter at all. Sure, there’s some talk about killing or enslaving humanity but the threat never really feels like it’s there and no one even mentions that till some point in the third act. All you need to really know is that there’s an urban fantasy shadow war and Aaron Eckhart is a part of it because he is damn it.

Once again, expository dialogue that we only need to hear once but will get repeated several times tells us that Frankenstein’s monster is a animated corpse without a soul. This is useful for demons because even though they can be ‘descended’ back to Hell, they can theoretically come back and possess things that don’t have a soul. However, their awesome demon powers don’t allow them to reanimate corpses on their own so they need to make a whole bunch of reanimated corpses using Frankenstein’s methods so they can raise a demon army. Aaron Eckhart decides to stop this because essentially he is tired of them coming after him, and two centuries of wandering the wilderness apparently gets pretty boring.

The film’s structure is pretty much as follows: well choreographed but terribly shot and edited fight sequence paired with a terribly shot and edited exposition dump. What little story there is progresses this way at a decent clip and I’m fairly certain there’s even a romance subplot. I can’t say with certainty there is because Aaron Eckhart and Lady-Scientist have so few non-plot related lines that it’s hard to gauge their actual chemistry. It’s entirely possible the actors just assumed they were supposed to fall in love because that’s generally the way way these things go.

What makes all of this plot-moving dialogue so bad is that there’s not really enough plot to fill all of these scenes, so they just end up repeating what has already been said in a slightly different way. I at least can say this showcases the skill of writer/director Stuart Beattie since by my count he is able to rehash the same plot points at least seven times in a 90 minute running time, whereas I have only been able to restructure this problem three times in a little over seven hundred and fifty words.

At least I can complement him there since his direction is subpar. This movie is a mashup of the worst trends plaguing modern action movies, and the urban fantasy genre in general. His shots are sometimes shaky for no discernible reason (a scene where Aaron Eckhart is reading but the camera is shaking sticks out in my head) and when there’s a fight sequence he can’t keep the camera still for longer than ten seconds. The screen is cluttered with CGI and flashy death sequences for the demons and gargoyles that make me wonder how they’re keeping their war a secret. Everything is shot through a terrible blue filter, that is when it isn’t too dark to see anything. The only time we see natural light, it’s not actually natural, and creates a classic orange/blue contrast.

The score is a ceaseless droning of strings and woodwinds attempting to make every fight and line of dialogue seem world shattering. The props are so heavily stylized that it makes me wonder why anyone would actually build weapons or equipment that way. Most of the costumes are simply bland, and there is no attempt to break away from the black/gray/light blue color scheme that plagues the movie. Aaron Eckhart’s makeup is clearly designed to make him look scarred without making him unrecognizable. And the set design looks like they weren’t sure whether or not to go full dystopia, creating a world that is architecturally difficult to believe.

The writing is atrocious!

Have I mentioned this yet?

We meet characters only to have them die off moments later. At some point in the first thirty minutes one character reveals that she loved another character who just died but their love was forbidden by the Gargoyle Order. She then promptly cries a single tear and dies. As if I am supposed to care about a character who has exactly five lines of dialogue, and this is coming from a man who knows the names of several of the X-Wing pilots that die in Star Wars (RIP Piggy).

The movie ends with the revelation that Bill Nighy is apparently a load bearing boss. We then have a shot of Aaron Eckhart standing in a very Batman-esque pose while a rambling voice over in his gravely cool guy voice teases a sequel and then ends with a title drop. A nu metal song plays us out through more shots cluttered with CGI and orange/blue contrasts.

There is no reason to see this movie. It is not funny. You will not laugh. If you try to watch it while drinking, you will be unable to resist temptation and drink yourself into a stupor because that is the only feasible way out. The only good to come out of this movie is that the crew has at least already been paid.

Oh that, and the thing about flats. Let’s get more sensible footwear in movies.

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