Wednesday, February 5, 2014
A ROTTEN TOMATO: I, Frankenstein
As you've probably noticed by now, I usually only write reviews for films that I like. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, I find it much easier to explain why I like something. In addition, I tend to avoid films that I suspect I'll hate. On the rare occasion that I encounter a film that I truly dislike (less than 2.5 stars), I give it a review on the "A Rotten Tomato" label. I mention this because the relevant film for this post is one that strongly reminds me why I've taken this stance. "I, Frankenstein" is a middling film that is as unimpressive as you've heard.
The film features a convoluted plot that focuses on Frankenstein's monster (named Adam here), played by Aaron Eckhart. After being rejected by Dr. Frankenstein, Adam kills the doctor's wife, spurring on another act of revenge. As Frankenstein chases his creation through an Arctic chill, he eventually dies, leaving the Adam to roam free. Adam decides to bury his creator, but is attacked by gargoyles who try to recruit him to fight some demons on earth. This progresses into a centuries-long war between these varying factions culminating in the modern day events of the film.
Yes, it all sounds layered and complex but don't be fooled. This is a "bare bones" script that only exists to set up the situations for a stream of derivative action scenes. There are promising elements due to the various characters and the moral conflicts at play, but this film is mostly concerned with its surface-level visuals. Admittedly, this special effects bonanza is occasionally thrilling but it's also so painstakingly juvenile in execution (dialogue, characterization) that it's hard to respect the filmmaking. The most egregious offense is the waste of a talented cast, namely Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy. As one of the top character actors in the business, it's sad that there's no specificity given to Nighy's villain role. Likewise, Eckart's lead character is altogether too bland to stir up much excitement.
In effect, "I, Frankenstein" is essentially a B-movie hiding behind a blockbuster VFX budget. This is particularly evident in the overblown finale where fireballs and grotesque creatures incoherently collide in a big final showdown. At the end of the film, it gives you a sort of hangover feeling as you regret the excesses that you just experienced. The lack of background story and thematic depth often makes it feel like a TV episode or a middle film in a franchise. Perhaps I would have been satisfied if it were in either of those forms. As a standalone feature film though, I can't help but see this as a failure.