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Beattie's Adaptation Fails To Bring 'Frankenstein' To Life

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, January 26, 2014

Updated: Sunday, January 26, 2014 21:01

frankenstein

Courtesy of Lionsgate Studios

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When Frankenstein’s monster meets God’s guardians of the world, the Order of the Gargoyles—yes, gargoyles—they tell the creature that he shouldn’t pick a certain set of weapons because they are ungainly and crude. Of course, he takes them for that very reason. This is one of a number of blatant analogies to the creature throughout the film, but it stands up very well as a symbol for I, Frankenstein itself: this movie is as crude and obvious as it get.

After a quick journey through the traditional Frankenstein story from the nineteenth century, I, Frankenstein jumps to the modern day as Frankenstein’s creature becomes involved in a war between good and evil. Prince Naberius (Bill Nighy) and his demon henchies have been searching for Aaron Eckhart’s monster for hundreds of years in order to set in motion their dastardly plan. The Order of the Gargoyles, however, led by their Queen, Leonore (Miranda Otto), are God’s way of facing demons on earth and the duty of protecting the creature falls on them. A sexy blonde, Terra (Yvonne Stahovski), provides the eye candy and the science expertise for the film as the creature slowly becomes disillusioned with the goodies and the baddies and is left with no one to trust but Terra.

This version of the rehashed Mary Shelley story was adapted and directed by Stuart Beattie, who’s previously written sequels to blockbuster films like Pirates of the Caribbean and G.I. Joe. The story itself, however, comes from a graphic novel written by Kevin Grevioux who is most recognizable as the werewolf Raze from Underworld, which he co-wrote. It seems that Grevioux serves as the real center of Beattie’s movie as the entire production follows the style he has become known for through the Underworld movies and his other supernatural endeavors. This is the major problem with I, Frankenstein: it has no originality. The supernatural battle, the sets (especially the demons’ lair), Nighy doing evil and the attempts at gothic sincerity are a carbon copy of the Underworld series. Meanwhile, the religious element can’t help but be compared to Francis Lawrence’s Constantine. Even Leonore’s genius idea of naming the creature Adam is not only another example of the movies’ transparent symbolism but again takes its cue from elsewhere—in this case, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These predecessors to the film did it better—Bill Nighy doesn’t even look like he’s enjoying his hilariously badly written lines.

Even if one attempted to emotionally invest in any of the stereotypical characters, Beattie gives his audience very little chance. Within minutes, the movie tells us the entire backstory of the creature and the supernatural battle, introduces our protagonist to the gargoyles, has the obligatory training montage, and moves to the present day. Beattie’s apparent disinterest in creating any complexity for I, Frankenstein is clear from the beginning. It seems his cast realized this, as none of the actors move beyond using one or two facial expressions, despite having proved their worth in other films. Aaron Eckhart, for example, proved how well he could do the dubious hero in The Dark Knight under the strong hand of Christopher Nolan. Eckhart’s creature, however, is dull, the definition of one-dimensional as he broods his way through the story.

Other members of the crew seem to have followed Beattie’s lazy production values. Ross Emery is the director of film’s photography and, despite his good work on The Matrix, his photography is unremarkable. Although the best scene in the film—a battle between the gargoyles and the demons against the backdrop of the gothic gargoyle—is visually stunning, the success of the cinematography has much more to do with the special effects than photography. Furthermore, Cappi Ireland’s costume design is not only dull, but poorly executed. Leonore and the other gargoyles’ costumes in particular look straight off the rails of a fancy dress store.

An uninteresting screenplay, dull production values, and simply bad directing gave I, Frankenstein little chance of wowing its audiences. Perhaps the fact that the movie industry is drowning in supernatural stories at the moment makes the film seem unoriginal, but it’s likely that a creation as awful as this would have floundered regardless.

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