If you’ve seen a trailer for I, Frankenstein, and you’re even remotely familiar with Mary Shelley’s world-changing novel, then you’ve probably found yourself shaking your fist at the screen when they refer to Aaron Eckhart’s monster simply as “Frankenstein.” It’s not Frankenstein! It’s Frankenstein’s MONSTER! Will the desecration of the classics never end? How does crap like I, Frankenstein even get made?
But if you brought yourself to see I, Frankenstein, you’d realize how horribly wrong you were. Because here is one of the best film adaptations/sequels to a classic work of science fiction literature ever made. I’m here to say it folks: Aaron Eckhart is the best Frankenstein’s monster ever. Yep. That’s right. He’s better than Boris Karloff!
I, Frankenstein does totally suck, but not for the reasons you might think. And as for totally ruining the original Mary Shelley novel, it really doesn’t. This is a movie made far worse by its trailers. The other characters in the film actually don’t call Aaron Eckhart “Frankenstein” very often—mostly he’s just called “it.” And the back story of the creature is fairly faithful to the original novel, more so than most big screen adaptations. Too bad all that legit Mary Shelley stuff happens in like five seconds before the movie decides to introduce the genre of quasi-religious fantasy right on top of the quasi-science fiction. This isn’t just a monster double-decker, but a triple-decker.
This genre-mixing has of course, happened to poor Frankenstein’s monster before. Over the years he’s been forced to fight Dracula, The Wolfman, and even Abbott and Costello. I, Frankenstein, then is just a continuation of this classic formula, but this time he’s teaming up with living gargoyles to combat real-deal demons who walk among us. Hastily introduced in the first five minutes of the movie, the gargoyles can appear human when they’re being nice, but turn into gargoyles when its time for them to do gargoyle things like, say, fly in the air. Apparently, these folks are third or fourth tier arch-angles who are destined to immortally walk the Earth and fight demons.
The demons are all conveniently sent straight to hell when they are bashed with anything—sword, club, whatever—which bears the insignia of the Gargoyle Order. Again: if you have to kill a demon, just put the sacred symbol the Gargoyle order on any object and you’re good. Aaron Eckhart draws this symbol onto little knives, but I think it would be fun to draw it on the pellets of Nerf gun or pack of Pop-Tarts and see what happens. Would those things then become anti-demon weapons? Could you kill a demon with a Pop-Tart if it had the nifty symbol on it?
But seriously. Why weren’t Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, or Michael Dorn asked to be in this movie? Remember when they were voices in that awesome animated cartoon show Gargoyles about living gargoyles who were actually good guys fighting evil by night? Did someone watch a few episodes of this show totally high and then think to themselves “Shit, you know what this is missing? FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.”
The set-up of nice-gargoyles versus laughably cheesy demons practically dares you not to like it. I’m sure you can think of episodes of Torchwood that were crappier than this movie, because I know I sure can. When the demons are killed they descend into hell in a wooosh of flame. When the gargoyles get taken down, a jet of blue-light takes them up to heaven. This, in theory makes Aaron Eckhart a sort of reluctant hero character, which, if you think sounds formulaic, I’ll get to work organizing your smart person parade, because you’re totally right.
Imagine if Eckhart’s Two-Face was suddenly immortal, in his own movie, and making a decision to be nice for awhile. If you’re as drunk as the screenwriters of this movie were, you might actually think you’re watching your weirdo-bizzaro universe VHS copy of The Dark Knight and you accidentally taped over the very end of it with one of The Underworld movies.
The problem with most monster-on-monster movies is exactly the same inverse intellectual conundrum you have when you eavesdrop on arguments between morons about the best flavor of Doritos or who the hottest boy in One Direction is: you simply can’t figure out who to root for because you don’t care at all. Sure, a connoisseur of Alien Vs. Predator (oh wait, that’s me) might tell you these smackdown movies are all supposedly in the conflict itself, not in the resolution. This is why we all want to believe there’s two endings to King Kong Vs. Godzilla, even though there totally isn’t. But here with Gargoyles Vs. Demons Vs. Frankenstein, it’s all a little too much for a movie supposedly about the title character, who isn’t even really called that to begin with.
Which is why you automatically thinking I, Frankenstein sucks is both totally correct and misinformed at the same time. The real reason I, Frankenstein is bad starts right at its title. It’s not about Frankenstein, and that’s not really his name in the movie. Sure, Miranda Otto, Bill Nighy, and heck, even Aaron Eckhart are doing decent work here, but it’s not quite enough to justify going to see anything like this in theatre.
However, what I will say for I, Frankenstein is this: if it leads to a renewed interest in doing a real live action version of that cartoon-show Gargoyles, then it was all worth it.
And just to complete your experience, the title card from the Spanish-language version of the trailer:
Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com.