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Movie review: ‘I, Frankenstein’

Frankenstein

Director: Stuart Beattie

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy

Rated: PG-13 (sequences of intense fantasy action and violence throughout)

Running time: 93 min.


Posted 2:10pm on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014

Aaron Eckhart bears a distressing resemblance to the not late/not great Christopher Lambert in I, Frankenstein, a graphic novel movie goof on the man-made monster. Gaunt, scowling, covered in scars and sporting fingerless gloves, a tattered hoodie and biker boots, this “I” is an avenging brawler, sort of Blade in a blender, with Underworld and Highlander elements tossed in.

Rejected by his creator, we meet the Big Guy in a striking, Gothic past in which he avenges himself on Dr. Frankenstein. And just as he’s burying the guy, demons and then gargoyles show up to fight over the corpse – his corpse.

Why would they want this creation “of a dozen used parts from eight different corpses,” this living thing without a soul? The demon legions and their boss (Bill Nighy) have in mind some sort of demon reanimation project, a factory – DemonWorks SKG.

And the Godly gargoyles, led by Leonore (Miranda Otto), aim to stop them. Their battles, often around the Gothic cathedrals where the gargoyles sit in stony silence watching over an unsuspecting humanity, are special-effects extravaganzas, with demons “descended” (killed) into disintegrating piles of hot coals and gargoyles getting “ascended”(killed) in beams of Rapture light straight out of This is the End.

The whole affair goes straight to hell about four minutes in. The idea of a seemingly immortal monster, wandering the forests of central Europe, shedding the archaic English or German accent or whatever he would have learned to speak for the modern vernacular, is abandoned for non-stop battles and endless, tedious pages of exposition.

“Adam,” as the monster is named, mentions a bit of his past. Then the gargoyles spend the rest of the movie explaining who they are, what the demons are, how their world works and how much they love explaining things.

Most of this endless story takes place in a modern-ish EveryCity, where Adam stomps the darkened streets, an angry monster pawn looking for another demon or gargoyle to fix.

Yvonne Strahovski (of TV’s Dexter) is the fetching doctor who presides over modern-day efforts to replicate the late Dr. Frankenstein’s reanimation work – pretty enough to be a “companion” to Adam, an actress given nothing to play, just a wardrobe. It’s great seeing Otto all these years after Lord of the Rings, and Nighy does his usual well-dressed villain thing, only less so.

Eckhart? His only job is to keep the makeup stitches from popping, to maintain a straight face when Leonore intones, “You’re only a monster if you behave like one.”

Sounds like a job for … Christopher Lambert.

Mel Brooks had a lot of fun with this story, once upon a time. And another, straight version of the Mary Shelley story is due in theaters shortly. The humorless, generic and chatty Frankenstein served up here makes you wonder if the good doctor, in all his patching-together of parts, didn’t forget the brains.

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