I, Frankenstein

| May 12, 2014

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the best novels ever written.  The questions it raises about playing God, and the responsibility that comes along with creating new life either in a laboratory or through parenthood is really interesting.  I, Frankenstein toys with those same ideas in order to fill time before big elaborate fight sequences.  I don’t care for what this movie imprints on the original novel.  By setting it in a supernatural world, with demons, angels, and magic, it detracts from Shelley’s original work, in which a normal guy does something extraordinary.  If Frankenstein’s world is already full of supernatural elements, then it lowers the stakes of his accomplishment in my opinion.

Here, Frankenstein’s creature (Aaron Eckhart; The Dark Knight) finds himself in the modern world, stuck in the middle of a secret war between Heaven and Hell.  The head demon Naberius (Bill Nighy) is trying to recreate Frankenstein’s experiment to create an army of superhuman soldiers, which his demons can then possess and conquer the world.  There’s a lot of artistic license with this adaptation.  First, the original monster wasn’t preternaturally strong or agile.  He was incredibly intelligent however; learning things at a very quick rate.  In the roughly 150 years since his “birth” he hasn’t continued to get more and more intelligent.  Instead, he spends his decades in solitude training to be a fighter, even though he has no interest in ever encountering another living thing again.  He’s also immortal in this version, which strikes me as odd because Victor Frankenstein not only managed to create a human being, but he also managed to (accidentally) create an immortal human being?  For some reason that’s much more farfetched than the secret holy war going on in our world.

Visually, the movie is very nice to look at, and if you want to buy it, I suggest picking up the blu-ray.  This is from the people who made the Underworld movies, and it has a similar color scheme, but with a healthy dose of fire thrown in to really catch the eye.  The fight choreography is tight and fun, but doesn’t feel too over-polished.  There are times when it’s sloppy and that makes it seem more realistic.

I tend to like Aaron Eckhart, but this wasn’t his best work.  The creature is motivated by anger and vengeance, but it’s not really clear what he wants.  The prologue tells us he was living in solitude until demons started hunting him down to capture him and use him to recreate Frankenstein’s research, and then he goes on the offensive to hunt down demons, but what he’s really hoping to accomplish throughout the film is really muddy and unclear.  I’ve been seeing Yvonne Strahovski pop up in a lot of things recently.  She’s in the new season of 24, and did an episode in the new season of Louie, all after her turn on Dexter, and Chuck.  She’s proving to be a really versatile and interesting talent; not to mention she’s absolutely gorgeous.  Again, her budding talent is wasted here.  She plays a human scientist unwittingly assisting Naberius to recreate Frankenstein’s experiment.  Other than her job and her accent, I can’t tell you anything about the character.

Special features include audio commentaries and behind the scenes featurettes.  Available on blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate on May 13.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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