Friday, January 31, 2014

Me, Watch: I, Frankenstein

With monstrous special effects and a budget that would make any village restless,  I, Frankenstein lumbered into theaters this January. 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): This is not the Frankenstein’s monster I grew up with, Ponty, though this newly re-imagined look is curiously compelling. Mary Shelly’s original fiction about a scientifically reanimated corpse was a cautionary tale to the science community and society at large. The subtext was this; when women create life it is of the natural order of nature and life. When man creates lives, you get… well a monster. Sadly, Frankenstein is still a story that men are still butchering nearly 200 years later since this movie has nothing to do with Shelley’s anonymously published tale originally published in 1818. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I have never read the comic graphic novel this film is based on and know this film bares no resemblance to Mary Shelly’s classic. That said, I found the idea to be intriguing even though it wasn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been. 

CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING

AV: As for acting, there just isn’t any in this film. The casting could have been far worse than Aaron Eckhart and Bill "Are you sure this isn't Underworld" Nighy. And while Yvonne "Killer Elite" Strahovski is easy on the eyes, I'm not altogether sure what role she's supposed to play. Damsel in distress? Naive, well-meaning doctor? Deceived do-gooder? Confusing at best. Sadly, though Eckhart is not necessarily a believable re-animated monster, he does hold a menacing sort of air. The direction was undeniably dark and with lots of sweeping wide-angle shots for me to lap up the big battle sequences. The camera does a solid job of keeping the effects shots prominent. 

TP: Aaron Eckart takes a crack at being the action hero… and I’m not so sure he sold audiences. He has always been a capable actor, I’m just not so sure this was the role for him. Bill Nighy is one of my favorites. No matter what he plays in, he brings something special to the screen and his role here was reminiscent  of his head vampire role in Underworld. Truth be told, there were really no standout performances and the rest of the cast seemed rather two dimensional for me. Never once was I vested in anyone in the film… just intrigued by what Bill Nighy was going to say or do next.
AV: Good solid, explosions, CGI-built environments and great-looking Gargoyles (you know, you gotta have Gargoyles, Ponty!), the visual effects are solid though I must say… really nothing new. And what the hell (literally) was up with the demons? Their looks, make-up and transformations were all tired and lazy, as if they were all after thoughts. That’s not a good sign for a flick that is trying to sell me on an eye-candy experience. 

TP: There was no new ground broken in this film, but it also didn’t completely screw the FX up either. I found them passable and actually entertaining. The contrast between “descending” and “ascending” was nice and there was one scene where the use of slow motion was done better than I’ve seen it done in a long time. The fights were predictable, but there was one in particular that was obviously well rehearsed and practiced to perfection as I sat wondering why most fight scenes in films I watch won’t invest such effort. Overall, good effects.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: This movie is the culmination of the writers, SFX artists, producers and even some of the actors from the famed Underworld series. Pontificator, I can sniff out made-for-sequel films from here to Transylvania and this one even ends with a monolithic, 'more to come' feel as the main character's epilogue delivers voice over that is unimpressive and foreboding. He does not have much to say about a senseless story involving demons and gargoyles that is both hard to follow and confusingly trite. The title of the film suggests the monster has fragmented speech but throughout the film, Eckhart's overly handsome 'monster' is articulate, intelligent and resolute. Mixed signals at best. 

TP: Ah Vader…I’m wishing I had something good to say, but instead I have a couple of complaints. Although I liked the idea of the story, the classic good versus evil with the monster of Frankenstein caught in the middle, there were some story elements that just didn’t make any sense… at all. Terra, the human doctor tasked with replicating the process that created Adam (Frankenstein’s monster) has just been told that her world is going to be overrun with demons… indeed, sees proof that they exist after helping Adam defeat one, but still starts the process that will unleash hundreds of thousands of them on Earth to try and reanimate her colleague that has just been killed? Umm… they weren’t lovers, and even so, she’s going to hand the world over to the demons for him? Dumb. Leonore, the head Gargoyle, finds the thousands of demons I just spoke of, in the middle of the reanimation process… and orders the two other other Gargoyles with her to start destroying them… one by one? Say what? How about just destroying the machine that they are all hooked up to and stop the reanimation sequence? Wait… that makes too much sense.

ON SEQUELS

AV: You could tell from this movie’s narrative that it has “Trilogy” written in its DNA. I believe screenplays are already written for follow-up installments of I, Frankenstein. Based loosely on the fairly decent Darkstorm Comic's graphic novel and series written by Kevin Grevioux, there is a great deal of source material for this story, and if I know Hollywood–they will systematically ignore every bit of it. P-Man, how say you? 

TP: While the idea was good, the delivery wasn’t nearly good enough to sink a single dime into another go round. Please, don’t try to bring this back to life.
RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates I, Frankenstein: Swing and a miss, Hollywood. TIME Magazine Online reviewed this movie under the title "I, Frankenstein is NOT the worst movie ever made." I concur. Its fun to look at, a great idea (that gets fundamentally butchered as soon as the film begins) and has promise for future installments. Unfortunately, the absence of story, plot or acting (not to mention common sense) as well as a screenplay that assumes the audience is a group of over-stimulated 8-year olds, drops this movie where it lumbers. The movie simply fails to inspire. Still, I went to the lab and stitched together four (4) Busted Blocks and threw the switch still hoping for a spark. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates I, Frankenstein: Not the worst film of the year, but certainly not the best. Although the acting was lackluster, and the story stalled in some sections, the idea was interesting and there was some entertaining scenes. This movie killed the blocks, but managed to reanimate six (6) of them for mindless entertainment value.


I, Frankenstein: 5 / 10 Busted Blocks 





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