‘I, Frankenstein’ better off dead

By Karsten Burgstahler

In an early sequence during Stuart Beattie’s new film, “I, Frankenstein” (Rated PG-13; 93 Min.), Bill Nighy’s character informs a scientist played by Yvonne Strahovski that “Time is fleeting. I’d rather you not waste mine.”

Beattie uses that quote as his mantra for making this film, taking to heart that “time is fleeting” as he races through scene after scene of blinding action and nonsensical dialogue while seemingly forgetting the part about not wasting our time. “I, Frankenstein” is, in fact, a giant black hole that will suck time you would have been more entertained using to watch C-SPAN.

“I, Frankenstein” is the latest in a series of Hollywood films attempting to put a contemporary spin on gothic scientific tales. The central character of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” would have been enough for an interesting update, so why Beattie decided to choose this particular adaptation, from the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux that throws angels and demons into the mix, is dumbfounding — he doesn’t give these additions much symbolic relevance. They simply exist to fight.


Aaron Eckhart plays Adam, the name given to Frankenstein’s monster, who was given life some 200 years ago. He discovers demons want to dissect him to figure out how he came back to life so they can use salvaged bodies to resurrect the demons and the angels the good guys have managed to put down. This sounds even more ridiculous writing it out.

There have been thoroughly effective modern tales of myths that have come out recently, most notably 2007’s “300,” which made director Zack Snyder a household name. While “300” is far from historically accurate, it did tell a story of men who were obsessed with war and needed it to live, paralleling a war which deeply divided the American public. It also brought a hyper-stylistic brand of filmmaking and applied it to the tale, successfully contemporizing the ancient story.

Then there are less successful tales, like 2010’s “Legion,” in which Paul Bettany plays an angel at war with God and trying to protect a boy who can apparently overpower God. Also, Dennis Quaid’s character has a son named Jeep.

But “I, Frankenstein” is not even so bad it’s funny. It is simply grating and does not offer up any new filmmaking techniques or storytelling devices to build our knowledge of these neo-gothic pieces. It is so focused on plot exposition that nearly every line of dialogue is an attempt to explain the plot. If Beattie were not so concerned with shoehorning in so many different elements, he wouldn’t need this sort of dialogue.

About the only reliable actor here is Bill Nighy, who plays Naberius, apparent lord of the demons. Nighy chews on his dialogue and is somewhat menacing for the first half of the film, but as the script begins to insist he transform into a ghoulish demon he becomes laughable. Nighy is such a diverse actor he can take on corny plotlines like he did in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, or more serious roles, as he did in November’s overlooked “About Time” and has no problem owning what he’s been given. That’s why “I, Frankenstein” isn’t his fault.

Maybe instead of crucifying “I, Frankenstein” for its horrendous contents, it is better to look at the film from the vantage point of missed opportunities. As a human race, we’re obsessed with resurrection and whether or not there is life after death. We struggle with our beliefs and the gap between relying on our own reason and putting faith in God. “I, Frankenstein” does focus some of its efforts on rebirth, but there certainly could have been more of a human element of turning a regular person into a believer. The closest the audience gets is Strahovksi’s character, Terra, a scientist who one minute says she doesn’t believe in demons but the next sees one and accepts everything about religion. Giving Terra more to grapple with would have added another dimension to the film.

“I, Frankenstein” did not have to waste our time. It could have been an interesting update of a character whose major characteristic, immortality, is an obsession in our culture, but the writers refuse to let the movie be anything more than schlock and cut-rate special effects, pushing the film over the edge and into the garbage can.


Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.