What’s the month of January without some mindless, CGI nonsense? No one wants his or her film take on the job, but at least it gives I, Frankenstein some purpose.
Shortly after his creation, Victor Frankenstein's monster, Adam (Aaron Eckhart), finds himself in the middle of the ongoing war between demons and gargoyles. Rather than commit to a cause, Adam opts to take off and keep to himself. However, the demon prince, Naberious, remains persistent in his effort to bring Adam in so he can figure out the key to re-animating corpses. After about 200 years of dealing with Naberious’ goons, Adam decides it's time to return to society and put an end to his threat once and for all.
It sounds crazy, but Beattie had something here. Initially, the idea of slapping Frankenstein's monster together with demons and gargoyles may seem like a desperate attempt at banking on the supernatural creature craze, but the Gargoyle Order in particular is a topic worth exploring – just not in the context of Adam's search for a soul.
Adam's got layers, but those layers don’t have layers and that turns them into flat facts, leaving the character without much dimension. Way back when, Adam is abandoned by his creator and suffers from a lack of companionship. That concept could have been an effective driving force and means of connectivity, but it winds up being a point made and nothing more because he never emotes. Adam just stalks around with a stone cold expression, never giving the audience access to his motivation and values. And the same goes for Adam’s anatomy as well. The movie highlights that Adam was made up of a dozen parts from eight different corpses, but then just leaves it at that. Delving into the science of Adam’s creation would have called for an entirely different film, but when your protagonist’s arc is rooted in a mission to find his humanity, it's vital that the viewer get a somewhat comprehensive sense of how deep that humanity runs.
Perhaps it would have been easier to measure Adam’s change from a soulless immortal to something more humanlike had there actually been more humans in the movie. We get a single nightclub full of extras and two named human characters in this entire feature and that’s it. That just doesn’t work when you’ve got one character trying to find his place in the world and a brigade of supporting players, the Gargoyle Order, that is solely on this earth to protect humans from demons. Then you’ve got the gargoyles and the demons going at it, there are fireballs all around, building are crumbling and we’re just expected to believe that because we don’t see very many humans, that they’ve got zero clue about the battle that’s raging on.
It’s ridiculous, and so is the large majority of the I, Frankenstein narrative, but it doesn’t decimate the film’s entertainment value because, simply put, gargoyles are cool. They’re these hulking men and women that rather majestically transform into enormous, beefy stone creatures that zip through the air and descend demons. Their faces in gargoyle form are the slightest bit cartoonish and the fire effect is an absolute joke, but those battle sequences rock a significant amount of momentum and are quite fun to watch, too. However, it’s still too bad that Beattie didn’t give the Gargoyle Order more room to breathe because the ins and outs of life as a gargoyle could have made the viewer feel invested in this world, something Adam doesn’t come close to achieving.
As for the demons, they look a lot like the vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or better yet, the makeup and effects in I, Frankenstein look like something from out of the '90s. The film didn’t have a big budget and there’s no doubt that Beattie did manage to do a lot with the little he had, but the end results do beg the question, why not scale it down and run with less, but higher quality CGI? Trouble is, that wouldn’t have worked either because the only reason I, Frankenstein is mildly enjoyable is because of the outrageous action.
I, Frankenstein makes a weak attempt at offering up a fresh iteration of the iconic character using a thoughtful moral dilemma, but when that character exhibits zero emotional range, all we’re left with is a big pile of CGI vomit. Beattie had picked out some savory morsels, but then he never cooked them through so slathered them in sugary VFX and ended up with a feature that does go down, but not quite right.