Aye, Judge David Johnson? Nay.
Originally released just in time for the winter cinema graveyard, this action fantasy re-imagines Dr. Frankenstein's lumbering and oblivious monster as a smoldering acrobatic demon assassin. On paper? Dumb, but potentially fun. In practice? Just dumb.
Facts of the Case
Adam (Aaron Ekhart, The Dark Knight) is Frankenstein's monster, a soulless creation pieced together from an assortment of lantern-jawed corpses. He's a provocative character, especially in the modern world, which is dominated by two supernatural races: the gargoyles (remnants of Heaven's archangels charged with protecting Earth) and demons (dirtbags from Hell looking to overrun humanity). Adam is the key to tipping the balance of power. He's got the moves to demolish the demonic horde, but the fact that he's lacking a soul (a mandatory prerequisite to reanimate slain demons) may be just the recipe head honcho demon (Bill Nighy, Hot Fuzz) needs to resuscitate his fallen comrades for a final cataclysmic push.
My expectations weren't exactly stratospheric going into I, Frankenstein, but once its bananas mythology was laid out my attention was piqued. I'm a sucker for Heaven/Hell fantasy, and the crazy world of Gargoyles vs. Demons held some potential. Of course, nothing made much sense—the gargoyles have a gigantic headquarters in the middle of the city, and the demons routinely screw around in public. The human characters somehow can't wrap their heads around the fact that there's a war going on, but when it comes to Hellspawn getting smote by divine battle axes, I'm willing to let that go.
My biggest problem with I, Frankenstein is its bread and butter: the blockbuster action sequences. The storyline upon which this mayhem is strung is ridiculous enough to sustain all manner of demon/gargoyle brawls. Simply put: the CGI overload is way too much. Granted, I don't know how you execute magic gargoyle jujitsu practically, but there has to be a better way than what ultimately plays out on screen. The real stumbling block is the gargoyle animation. These guys are clunky, monochromatic, and rendered with all the finesse of a sledgehammer. Lionsgate's HD transfer undercuts the sub-par visual effects, ensuring that anytime these guys show up the film flies off the rails. It's just too distracting to watch these Syfy original movie level constructs whizzing around.
Another oversight is Adam, the Frankenstein monster himself. Built up to be a legitimate badass from the get-go, it's all downhill after his first bout (which happens within the first 10 minutes). From there, our synthetic stud demon-smacker is relegated to near-bystander status. When he IS called upon to throw down, he ends up winning by default (a ballyhooed face-off between Adam and the head gargoyle enforcer ends in an accidental stabbing). The finale is bombastic and fireball-filled, but once again our boy doesn't contribute a whole lot. Which is ultimately the film's biggest bummer.
Give me a goofy mythology. Lay the cheesy CGI on thick and creamy. I can take it. All I ask in return is a Frankenstein monster that brings it! This one could use a few more lightning strikes to the head to get him really pissed.
A top-notch technical presentation anchors I, Frankenstein 3D (Blu-ray), kicking off with a sterling 2.40:1/1080p transfer. The visuals, as over-the-top (and sporadically shifty) as they are, pop off the screen. Sound-wise, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track delivers the goods, pumping out chaos with panache. Bonus Features: the 2D presentation, two commentary tracks with director Stuart Beattie and his producers, two brief making-of featurettes highlighting the film's creature effects, the theatrical trailer, a standard def DVD copy, and an UltraViolet digital download.
I'm serious…The premise was up my alley. Too bad everything else in I, Frankenstein belongs in a formaldehyde jar.
De-animate this poor bastard.
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Scales of Justice
• 2D Version
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