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'I, Frankenstein' Review: Have You Seen 'Legion'? 'Underworld'? 'Priest'? Congratulations, You've Seen This Movie

By TK | Film Reviews | January 24, 2014 | Comments ()


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Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

A dangerous outcast creature is trapped in a war between two deadly supernatural forces. This creature isn’t sure where its loyalty lies, but through a series of betrayals and evil machinations, and aided by a kindhearted human being with whom he/she shares some awkwardly scripted sexual tension, he or she ultimately decides to fight for the good guys. There’s a surprise revelation, a couple more betrayals, and then a gigantic climax wherein the good guy creature is near death after a battle with a newly monstrous antagonist. At the last minute, they reveal surprising inner strength with the aid of the aforementioned human and conquer the evil leader, thereby saving mankind.

Welcome to the world of Underworld Legion Priest I, Frankenstein. It follows the aforementioned formula pretty much to a T, and that’s about all you need to know. Instead of vampires and werewolves, or priests and vampires, or angels and demons, this time it’s gargoyles (!) and demons, the gargoyles being an army sent down by Heaven to watch over mankind. Instead of a rogue vampire or rogue priest or rogue angel, the protagonist is effectively a rogue human — Frankenstein’s monster, played with spectacular blandness by a tragically wasted Aaron Eckhart, who has really fallen down a hole of terrible scripts after his terrific performance as Harvey Dent. Frankenstein’s creature, dubbed Adam by Leonore (Miranda Otto — oh, honey, no), the queen of the gargoyles (!!), is set against the demon prince Naberius (Bill Nighy, the film’s lone interesting spot), who wants to find out the secret to his reanimation so that he can animate a crapload of dead people, get them possessed by his demon brethren, and take over the world and holy sh*t, I really did just write that sentence, didn’t I.

There are battles and noble speeches and villainous declarations and everyone is vaguely British for no good reason, except for Adam, who after 200 years in the wilderness is now American. Also, apparently during those 200 years he learned how to sculpt his hair immaculately, but not how to do laundry or wash his face. The bad guys are baaaaad, and wear suits and all look like the Dark Prince Of The Ill-Fitting Brooks Brothers Cabaret. The good guys all wear curiasses and kneepads and there are enough capes to make you think that it’s Spartacus Day at Comic-Con. Except when they dramatically turn into the giant gargoyles, which fly and grunt and are huge and dangerous looking, which naturally means that 50% of the time they fight — and get killed — in human form, because I really don’t know.

I, Frankenstein is horrible, folks. I can’t really put it any better than that. But I guess it’s no more horrible than any of the above noted films, which all use the same formula, which all trade role players around — Nighy is in the Underworld films, as is Kevin Grevioux (who actually wrote both the comic book this is based on, as well as the screenplay). I’m frankly surprised that Legion and Priest don’t share any links, since they hew so closely to the same exhausted tropes, but then again they have the same director and writer and lead actors, so they’re sort of parallel in that sense. I was halfway expecting Paul Bettany to pop up anyway, as if he heard the clarion call of idiotic mythology and couldn’t resist its siren song, and writer/director Stuart Beattie just threw him in there because it was a slow shooting day. Regardless, if you’ve seen any of those films, then I, Frankenstein becomes utterly predictable. In fact, if you’ve got even two or three neurons capable of firing at even half-speed, you should basically already know how the whole thing goes and thereby want to avoid it.

There are other actors in the film, I suppose. The lovely Yvonne Strahovski is there as a scientist, and she gasps a lot and uses a few long words, and also tosses her hair around really well, like a Pantene model in business casual surrounded by sh*tty CGI monsters. Jai Courtney shows up as Leonore’s Gargoyle Lieutenant, or something, and he scowls often and mumbles and flexes his biceps in a menacing fashion. Courtney was actually quite good in Jack Reacher, but then Die Hard: Oh God Why happened and I think he pretty much bludgeoned his career to death as a result. There are other people in it but really, who cares?

The action is amazing only in that it somehow manages to be frenetically edited, yet utterly boring. The entire film has that bluish tinge to it — call it the Gothika effect — that film makers use when they don’t understand how to design a set or hire a competent cinematographer. There’s a scene where Adam battles a gargoyle and they practically destroy an entire building, and it’s completely dull. It takes a special gift at directing to create a vignette wherein two supernatural creatures battle in a urban area and destroy a building, and my first instinct is to take a nap.

I’m bored even writing this, you guys. What else do you want? What else could you possibly want to know? Oh, I know, some of you are going to defend the Underworld movies, and those of you who do so should be wearing helmets and bibs at all times. But for what it’s worth, I, Frankenstein is probably worse than those. The effects are passable, but the plot, dialogue, editing, script, pacing, set design, and acting are all somewhere between mediocre and absolutely terrible. It actually wrapped in 2012, but then they spent a year converting it to 3D which I can safely inform you was not time well spent. I, Frankenstein is, like the Underworld films, very blue and very bland in any dimension. It’s the perfect film for the festering trash heap that is the mid-January release dump. I hated it. I hate you. I need a drink.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Strand

    Why does Bill Nighy do these? It's like John Malkovich inexplicably showing up in shitty dragon movies. So is Aaron Eckhart actually meant to be made up of multiple dead bodies? Because.. fella don't look like anything but Aaron Eckhart with some joke shop halloween makeup.

  • theKelz

    I was hoping for a fun supernatural romp, a la Hansel and Gretel...I did not get it.
    I sighed loudly, rolled my eyes, and attempted to MST3K. I couldn't muster the energy to care enough to make fun of this movie.
    Legion, Priest, Van Helsing, H & G...they are fun movies.

    This was not.

  • I'm coming out to say that I actually like Priest. It isn't a fantastic movie, but it is fun.

  • Rush Duncan

    Seriously, Io9 says "You heard it here first: I, Frankenstein is destined to become a so-bad-it's-good cult classic."

  • Rush Duncan

    I honestly and sincerely haven't seen Legion, Underworld or Priest. If the main critique of this movie is that of being formulaic based upon the others - if one hasn't seen the others - does that make it worth seeing? Upon reflection, I saw the trailer before Catching Fire and made a mental note that I might check it out, really I suppose, based on Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent. I truly ask the Pajiba readers (I've been a lurker for years and this is my first post) if I'm unfamiliar with the formula as presented in recent memory, could this be worth checking out? Or would one of the other movies be better to metaphorically "pop the cherry with?" Or best to avoid the genre altogether? (Note: not sure about the technical difficulties but I tried to post this and failed due to having to login for the first time - just in case a similar post pops up.)

  • TK

    If you absolutely must see one of them, see the first Underworld movie - I guess. The wisest course is to avoid them all, and out of all of them, this one is by far the worst.

    I thought that Eckhart was amazing as Dent. He is atrocious in this.

  • Rush Duncan

    Fair enough! Your "wisest course is to avoid them all" is what I was getting at. I'll stick to literature for this theme!

  • RilesSD

    I skimmed the review without seeing who the author was and the last line caught my eye: "I hated it. I hate you. I need a drink."

    TK review?

    TK review.

    Hilarious.

  • Irina

    Jai Courtney is the main bad guy in Divergent, which will make six thousand Canadian craploads of money. His career will be fine.

  • stardust

    The number one thing that tells me this movie is a pile of shit? The title. FRANKENSTEIN DOES NOT EQUAL FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER, ASSHATS. FIND A BETTER TITLE.

  • Whistler

    But wasn't Dr. Frankenstein a monster too, for what he did?

    Philosophical issues aside, this film is shit.

  • Me and the kid, watching TV when the trailer comes on:
    Me: Oh, man, that's gonna be bad.
    Kid: Like so bad it's good, or just stupid bad?
    Me: The latter.
    Kid: So, less like 300 and more like Priest.
    Me: Yep.
    Kid: And the new 300 movie?
    Me: Probably just going to be bad, but I'll see that one.
    Kid: Because of all the buff men and ridiculous battles and reasons to gripe about how they get history so wrong?
    Me: Got it in one.
    Kid: That was three. Go with dad. I'll wait for it to come on cable.

  • TK

    Kid's pretty sharp.

  • Yeah, sometimes, you can cut yourself on it, but it's still sort of awesome.

  • I hated it. I hate you. I need a drink.

    And you wonder why we always call on you for the really challenging movies.

  • Finance_Nerd

    Even if the world is a complete disaster, your hair doesn't need to be. Try Pantene Apocalypse formula. Your hair will retain body while bodies are dropping around you.

  • Wednesday

    I think I probably enjoyed this review more than I'd ever enjoy the movie.

  • PDamian

    I don't care. I'm seeing it tonight. The semester started three weeks ago and I'm already swamped and stressed. My local multiplex has an in-house pizzeria/bar, and you can buy a beer or mixed drink and take it into the theatre with you. I shall buy a frozen margarita and a small pizza, grab a good seat, and watch Spartacus Day (that's got to be good for nekkid pecs, right? RIGHT?) and Aaron Eckhart's coif -- and just chill.

  • theKelz

    You're going to need more than one margarita. Like a large hot tub full.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I don't care. I mine shite like this for RPG campaign ideas.

  • thatsmrsnyder

    How come Bill Nighy takes all these shit scripts but turns down Dr. Who?? (and my phone calls, but let's not bring up old wounds)

  • idiosynchronic

    Because once you're The Doctor you're . . *whipsers * . . typecast.

    And if there's one thing Bill Nighy won't stand for, it's being typecast!!

  • Money?

  • thatsmrsnyder

    You're not wrong, but still. My wife is getting tired of me saying "Gawd I really wanted him to be The Doctor" every time I see him on screen. Do it for my wife, Nighy. Do it for all of us.

  • Mrs. Julien

    if you’ve got even two or three neurons capable of firing at even half-speed

    Flatterer.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Please note that TK did not state that any of us have the required neurons. In fact, I doubt if he thinks that we do.

  • Melissa Bright

    Here is me defending Underworld: Kate Beckinsale in leather, and Scott Speedman in anything (or nothing, that would work for me too). Also Bill Nighy because he's the bright spot in any film, ever. That is my defense for liking Underworld and by golly I'm sticking to it. ;)

  • Whistler

    I'm going to defend Underworld 3 because I don't know if it even had a plot or great performances, all I remember is ripped Michael Sheen running around looking sexy for what, 80 minutes? Eckhart looks hot in this one, actually.
    Holy shit, I'm the reason this kind of turd cinema exists.

  • BlackRabbit

    I'll defend Underworld 4 because it had werewolves, which I like, and Stephen Rea, who is excellent 90% of the time, even in crapfests.

  • Stephen Rea was pretty dope. I definitely liked the fourth more than Rise of the Lycans. The third in theory should have worked, but it seemed like an episode cut short. I know I'm asking too much from the producers and writers I suppose!

  • TK

    Just because you find a couple of flowers in a pile of shit doesn't mean you should defend it. It's still a pile of shit.

  • Finance_Nerd

    I prefer this version of that saying... "You can put whipped cream and a cherry on a pile of shit. I still ain't gonna eat it."

  • Melissa Bright

    oh, I have no illusions about the quality of the movie. A better example is Queen of the Damned. Horrible, horrible film, but the music is fantastic and I like looking at Stuart Townsend. There's times in a person's life when they just need a bit of mindless eye candy.

  • I must admit I own both these on dvd for basically same reason. I blame Felicity and my weak spot for horror action films. However, the Underworld films went way down as they went along (number 3 prequel, I'm looking at you!). I, Frankenstein looks atrocious and only worth a watch when it premieres on FX or SyFy.

  • theKelz

    I'm fairly shocked this didn't go straight to DVD as is.

  • Is that a toilet seat around his neck? WTF?

  • RilesSD

    Ha! Or they forgot to take off his makeup apron?

  • emmalita

    I didn't realize until you pointed it out, but it DOES look like a toilet seat.

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