Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Horror Film Review

 I, Frankenstein (2014):  Hey, the trailers looked great and with Aaron Eckhart playing the monster/hero, Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead) playing the heavy, and Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) playing the "good" queen, how could this high-concept, FX-laden project fail?  Well, much as Dr. Frankenstein cobbled together his creation from a number of corpses and hoped for the best, the filmmakers cobbled together this film from a number of CGI set pieces and did the same.  The results are eerily similar. 

As you know, the good doctor creates the monster from spare parts, zaps it into life with electricity, and subsequently decides the abomination must be destroyed.  Said abomination kills the doctor's wife out of spite and flees to the Arctic where after giving chase, the doctor freezes to death. The creature hauls the body back to the family plot and is immediately set upon by a horde of demons, and then rescued by flying gargoyles.  (With respect to Mary Shelley's book, this is where the artistic license comes in.)  Turns out, the gargoyles, descended from archangels, are on earth to protect mankind from Satan's minions.  Or some such hokum.  The devil's prince on earth, Naberius (Nighy) has a reanimate thousands of soulless corpses so they can be possessed by a demon army from hell.  The only snag in his plan is how to reanimate the corpses.  He needs the creature (named Adam by the gargoyle queen) so his scientists can determine how Viktor Frankenstein managed it hundreds of years ago.  One of these scientists is, of course, a hot blond woman (Yvonne Strahovski from the TV shows Dexter and Chuck).  They do figure it out and the final battle between Naberius and Adam starts as the hellspawn rise up from the netherworld to claim their new bodies.

I wanted to like this film so much but in the final analysis, simply could not.  Plot and character development were sacrificed for mindless action and overblown set pieces.  Adam's got the personality of a tree stump and is about as interesting.  Naberius is more camp than menace.  And the idea that gargoyles are really some kind of guardian angels is...a tough sell (and to be clear, they're actually grotesques, not gargoyles).  Similar films like Underworld and Constantine weren't awesome, but they were watchable because they didn't take themselves too seriously.  Not so with this movie.  Here's a tip: if you're going to play it straight, you'd best figure out a way to get your audience to emotional invest in the characters.  Otherwise, what the hell are we doing here?

The Skinny

Acting:  A yawn.
Story:  A stretch.
Direction:  A mess.
Production Values:  A $65 million budget.
Gore/FX:  A bloodless, CGI technical exercise that I've seen done better.
Scares:  Zero.
Ending:  Hollywood predictable.
Verdict:  Should you see I, Frankenstein?  Maybe diehard Eckhart, Nighy, or Strahovski fans would find something to enjoy.  Fans of the genre or Mary Shelley, however, should grab their pitchforks and torches and pay the filmmakers a visit.

Rating:  2 out of 5

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