Mon
Jan 27 2014 3:30pm

I, Frankenstein is Actually Just a Live Action Version of Disney’s Gargoyles

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!

PSYCH!

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.

16 comments
Shariq Ansari
1. DarkeSword
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!

Clearly you forgot to take the incomparable Peter Boyle into consideration. ;)
Serge Broom
2. Serge Broom
I think I'll stick with Michael Sarrazin as the Creature.
Serge Broom
3. Serge Broom
DarkeSword... Did you know that Peter Boyle was the Best Man at the wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono?
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
So on the Van Helsing scale, of terri-bad to so-bad-its-good, where do you rate this?
Nick Hlavacek
5. Nick31
I remeber really enjoying Disney's Gargoyles back in the day. I'm sure it had nothing to do with thinking the Elisa Maza character was rather cute. Anyway, yes, I think that with a good script that could definitely be an enjoyable live action movie. Someone make that happen please. However, based on this review and others I'll pass on I, Frakenstein.
Christopher Bennett
6. ChristopherLBennett
Gargoyles was not missing Frankenstein's monster, not entirely. They had their own version with Coldstone, Michael Dorn's character. Xanatos even said "It's alive, alive!" when Coldstone came to life. (Followed by "I've always wanted to say that.")

I've said it before, but if the creature is, essentially, Victor Frankenstein's son, then why wouldn't his surname be Frankenstein too? I believe the novel implied that his actual given (or self-adopted) name was Adam, and I read somewhere that he's called that in this movie as well -- so maybe his name could be Adam Frankenstein. Well, except for the whole thing about Adam and Victor hating and renouncing each other.
Serge Broom
7. mutantalbinocrocodile
Forget this movie. You are making me really, really want a fully-animated reboot of Gargoyles. No crappy limited animation on a TV budget, and even the storyline of the first four episodes could be expanded into a PG-13 standalone.
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@7: I still regret they didn't do a live-action/animatronic feature version of Gargoyles back in the '90s, since so many of the voice actors could've easily played their characters in live action. Imagine actually seeing Jonathan Frakes as Xanatos, Salli Richardson as Elisa, Ed Asner as Hudson, etc.
Scott Skocy
9. skoce
I've never understood the grousing about calling the monster Frankenstein. I know that it was never called such in the book, but what name do you expect it to take? Dr. Frankenstein is more or less its father, taking his name doesn't seem far-fetched.
Gerd K
10. Kah-thurak
Compairing Gargoyles to a bullshit movie like this actually seems a little unfair to me... I really liked that show back then.
Christopher Bennett
11. ChristopherLBennett
@9: I think the point is that the title is meant to refer to the creator, rather than his creation. The full name of Shelley's book is Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. The "modern Prometheus," then, is Victor Frankenstein, the man who stole the gods' power to create life and attempted to give it to humanity. So Frankenstein as the title of the story refers to Victor.

Of course, it wouldn't be the only time a title meant to refer to one character or entity in a story has come to be identified with a different character, e.g. The Thin Man and The Pink Panther.
Deana Whitney
12. Braid_Tug
When I see the trailer I think:
1) He's too good looking to be Frankenstine's monster
2) The stone wings into silky cloaks are pretty! Great effect.
3) Good to see in the theater for the effects. Bad to see the film because the story is going to suck.

So thanks for seeing it for me.
Serge Broom
13. AlanHK
"shaking your first"?
"bares the insignia"?
On a site sponsored by a book publisher, this is sad.
Serge Broom
14. Chuachita
You are the worst film reviewer ever! I went to see the film the other day and all the rubbish you complained about, like the naming and things, was complete gibberish. The film was amazing, it wasn't laughable, and it was based on a graphic novel by the same name, so I'd really reccomend it. Also, if you don't go and see a film because a review tells you not to, then you are a fool. If you want to know how good a film is, go and see it.
Serge Broom
15. AOCGPO
I, Frankenstein production Steals, Taints, Violates and Blasphemes
the AOC Cross ©.

What does the bible says?

“I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That SIN will be held against you forever.”

Mark 3:28-29 (CEV)

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Serge Broom
16. Bard Constantine
This was the most hilarious review I've ever read. Thanks for the laugh. I'm a protective fanatic of Shelley's book, and have pretty much given up on ever seeing a faithful Hollywood version. Two seconds into watching the trailer for this and I was stunned at how it could have possibly gotten greenlit. It's like production companies are trying to lose money for the hell of it. But hey -enjoyed the review, at least.

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