By Ezra Stead
I, Frankenstein, Australia / USA, 2014
Directed by Stuart Beattie
The longer you watch I, Frankenstein, the harder it is to believe that it is an actual theatrical feature and not just a bad TV movie made for the Syfy channel. Despite big-name, reliably good actors like Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy and Miranda Otto, and special effects that, at their best, at least look like a really good video game, the entire project is bogged down by the bizarre combination of extreme silliness and relentless self-seriousness. Somehow, in making a movie in which Frankenstein’s monster (Eckhart) is reimagined as a modern-day superhero fighting against a legion of demons that want the secret to his immortality, no one managed to have any fun. The audience (such as it has been) is certainly no exception.
Alfred Hitchcock is credited with popularizing the term “MacGuffin,” a plot device that is crucial to the protagonists(s) and/or antagonists(s) of a story, but which has no intrinsic relevance to the audience. The titular bird sculpture in The Maltese Falcon is the perfect example; we, the audience, don’t care one way or the other about an ancient statue of a bird of prey, and it ends up being a phony replica anyway, but because the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre are pursuing it, we become interested.
I, Frankenstein is a film that focuses to the point of obsession on every MacGuffin it can find, and it expects the audience to give a shit. It expects this so blindly that it doesn’t bother to give us anything else to care about instead. It is a generic pastiche of better movies like The Matrix and Dark City, endlessly fascinated by “cool” character names like Naberius and Zuriel, but it seems to have little interest in them as actual characters. This is fitting, since they’re not really characters at all so much as video game avatars.
The guy to blame for all this is writer and actor Kevin Grevioux, who was also behind the similarly dreadful Underworld franchise. Grevioux is a giant, intimidating man on the outside, but on the inside he is the most insufferable, sniveling nerd who’s ever lived, the kind of geek that makes my jock blood boil. It’s a good thing he looks like he could crush me into powder, or I’d be tempted to find him and give him a wedgie.
In all seriousness, though, it’s somewhat baffling to me that someone like Grevioux, who clearly has a deep, abiding love for the fantasy genre, would consistently remove all but the most tedious aspects of that genre. Everyone speaks like they’re auditioning for the worst Shakespeare production ever, and the dialogue is all stupid names and overly complicated demon clan back-stories. This is a movie for the likes of Dwight Schrute, the self-described “fascist nerd” from The Office. All others are well advised to steer clear.
Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper, and aspiring stand-up comic who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in New York City.
For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com.