Yesterday I turned to my girlfriend and I said, “You know, we haven’t seen a movie in a while.”
She agreed. “What do you want to see?”
I outlined two choices: Spike Jonze’s Her or Stuart Beattie’s I, Frankenstein.
“Well,” she said, “Do you want to see something that will make you think or do you want to see something that might be entertaining?”
A very good question. That seems to be the choice with many films. Thought-provoking and deep or light and entertaining?
Long story short, we chose I, Frankenstein.
While we watched the movie, which was exactly what I thought it would be, I found myself analyzing things the way I would analyze a screenplay. I listened a little more closely to the dialogue and what it was telling me about each of the characters. I paid more attention to moments of exposition to see how the writer decided to lay out background information to the audience. I watched for the structure of the film to reveal itself. And I broke down the internal world of the story to see how the mythology held together.
So what’s the final verdict?
I, Frankenstein isn’t a particularly good movie. If you expect it to be then you should reevaluate the types of films you’re watching that would make you expect I, Frankenstein to be anything more than a popcorn flick. What it is, though, is entertaining.
The dialogue is about as bad as you would expect it to be for what is essentially a B-movie. There are a few cool “badass” lines uttered by the protagonist, Adam (who would be the Frankenstein of the title – don’t worry they explain the discrepancy multiple times) and other prominent characters. The plot is also surprisingly sprite and straightforward. I was often surprised at what the writers allowed to happen. For example, the deaths in the movie are not only almost random (as they should be in a movie about war) but permanent. I found myself say, internally of course, on more than one occasion, “Damn, they killed him off?” In that sense the plot had strong stakes and did a decent enough job of character development that I had some sort of attachment to the characters who died, even if my attachment was an expectation for how they fit into the plot.
The worst part of the movie, for me, was the exposition. The first ten minutes is essentially all background information. Who Adam is. Why he’s around in modern London. Who the Gargoyles are. Who the Demons are. What the stakes are. It’s a lot to take in and most of it is delivered clunkily (what a good word to use/invent as the word itself is clunky). Adam’s backstory is delivered in a prologue, which segues into the main story where the Gargoyle Clan just info-dumps all over the place. Luckily, they get it out of the way quickly and early and there isn’t much more after that. Just the explanation of the villain’s plan which, in the end, isn’t all that important when Frankenstein’s Monster is punching Demons and Gargoyles in the head left and right.
The best part of the film was the Gargoyle Clan. The mythology built for the film was interesting enough that I was intrigued and consistent within the world of the movie. I think a big reason for that was that the mythology was kept extremely simple. Demons want to destroy the human race. Gargoyles are the archangels sent to protect humans from them. There is a macguffin in the middle of it all. Easy.
Most importantly for a genre flick like this, in my opinion, is that none of the characters did anything overly stupid in order to move the plot forward. For the most part the characters are true to themselves, their allegiances, and the world as a whole. There wasn’t a moment where I thought to myself, “Why are they doing that? That’s stupid.” In that regard this movie was on more solid of a foundation than the vast majority of genre movies.
I know it seems like I’m being really lenient with this particular movie. My expectations were low, and the movie exceeded those expectations. Sometimes, especially with criticism, that’s all you need. Not every work needs to reach to be the new benchmark of art. Sometimes telling a fun story in a serviceable way is all it takes.
To me, that’s a good lesson.
Would I recommend it? Depends on what you’re looking for. As I told my girlfriend after the movie, “It wasn’t the worst ten bucks I’ve ever spent. Wasn’t the best, but definitely wasn’t the worst.”