Living on Netflix: I, Frankenstein

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This 2014 film based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux (who also wrote all the Underworld movies), somehow take the Frankenstein monster and has him fighting legions of demons.  Well you can’t say that’s not one of hell of premise!  I’m actually for wacky premises like this with characters you’d never expect.  Hell, it’s not like Universal was above putting it’s own monsters in crazy and outlandish situations to make a quick buck!  They’re the guys who practically invented the idea of cross over movies!  All that said, the lukewarm buzz around this film when it was released doesn’t give me a whole lot of hope, but you never know with something like this.  Is the movie a fun and cheesy romp, or is it just as bad as every says it is?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins our hero (Frankenstein’s monster played by Arron Eckhart) carrying around a dead body across various countries while he tells us this movie’s version of the Frankenstein story.  A mad genius creates life from dead bodies, becomes terrified by his own creation, and tries to get rid of it.  Understandably peeved, the monster comes back for revenge against his creator and kills the guy’s wife.  Doctor Frankenstein tries to hunt the monster down but dies in the process because the monster is apparently immune to cold and is hiding out in a snowy wasteland.  That about catches us up to now, and it turns out the dead body is that of the man who gave him life and the monster decides to honor his father by burying him in the family cemetery.  After a long trek, he finally makes it back to the place he was born, and buries his creator in the final resting place of his family.  Oh, and then demons show up.

“Sup.  Burying your dad?  That’s cool.  I’mma kidnap you now.”

“Sup.  Burying your dad?  That’s cool.  I’mma kidnap you now.”

Yeah, a small group of demons is waiting for him and try to kidnap his sorry ass but they are much too incompetent for such a task.  The action here is decent enough with enough super punches and flips to give it a sense of comic book fun, and is also filmed with fewer quick cuts and shaky cam than you see in most modern action films.  One of the demons get disposed of pretty quickly (I’m guessing a place with a lot of freaking crosses wasn’t the best battleground for the demons to choose), but the monster gets a pretty good ass whooping in the process.  Fortunately, there are a couple of gargoyles nearby that apparently hate demons and swoop in to take care of the rest.  The gargoyles transform into what appear to be gladiators crossed with super models and quickly realize the significance of the creature.  One of the gargoyles checks on the unconscious monster, and this is the scene where they decide to do the famous “it’s alive” line which is just fucking inexcusable.

“It’s the line.  IT’S THE LINE!!!  You know, the famous line from the 1931 film?”

“It’s the line.  IT’S THE LINE!!!  You know, the famous line from the 1931 film?”

The movie seems to agree with me on how terrible that line was (as well as the awful delivery from the actress) because we immediately cut to the monster waking up with a pained and terrified look on his face which is exactly the face I was making after hearing this film attempt to crib one of the best lines in all of cinema.  It turns out that the monster still got his ass kidnapped, only by the supposed good guys instead of the demons.  The gargoyles are the angles in this story (I guess gargoyle was a much more BADASS and EXTREME word instead to use instead of angel) and are led by their Queen (Leonore) who gives the monster the name Adam because she has zero creativity.  She explains that the demons and gargoyles have been at constant war for centuries and that they fight in secret, away from the eyes of humanity.  Yeah, file that little tidbit away for later; I’ll get back to it.  Leonore is concerned by the fact that the demons (led by Prince Naberius) are trying to capture him so she offers him a place among their ranks.  Because the monster in this has been repurposed into a generic badass archetype, he refuses their offer outright, but doesn’t leave until he raids their weapons shed.  His interest is piqued by a set of heavy sticks or something, but he’s informed that those weapons aren’t very good because, as one of the gargoyles points out, “they are blunt and crude”.

Really?  First of all, why the fuck would the gargoyles keep shitty weapons on hand?  Are they just backups when all the good weapons go missing?  Well clearly not because the answer is obvious!  It’s because the screen writer is a hack and wanted to give some thematic relevance to the monster’s choice of weapons.  These weapons are super awesome, but no one understands them man!  Everyone’s calling them crude and lame, but deep down they have the potential to be something GREAT!!

OH I GET IT!!  THE WEAPONS REMIND HIM OF HIMSELF!!!  I AM SO SMART!!!

OH I GET IT!!  THE WEAPONS REMIND HIM OF HIMSELF!!!  I AM SO SMART!!!

While Adam is stealing the gargoyles things and simultaneously flipping them the bird (I’m too cool for this scene daddy-o!), we cut to Leonore who is forced to deal with her very irritable second in command (Gideon) that believes the monster should have been destroyed.  Leonore stays firm in her decision, and orders him to take Frankenstein’s journal and lock it away so that the demons can’t ever find it.  She could have, you know, burned the damn thing but decided that locking it away is the better option.  So the gargoyles have the book, the demons are after Adam, and Adam decides to wander around the fucking wilderness twirling weapons and talking about how stupid other people are.  He’s gone full Ted Nugent.

“No one understands my pain.  No one but you, my faithful sticks.”

“No one understands my pain.  No one but you, my faithful sticks.”

I Frankenstein is CLEARLY going for a well-worn b movie plot where our hero is a loner who begrudgingly decides to get involved in a battle against good and evil.  The problem is that this movie has completely missed the absolute most important aspect to getting this kind of story right.  Your main character has to be fucking awesome.  Movies like Army of Darkness and Escape from New York pull this off masterfully with the protagonists of those films and that’s why Ashley Williams and Snake Plissken have persisted for so long in popular culture.  I Frankenstein absolutely bungles this and the entire film suffers because of it.  Aaron Eckhart is trying his damnedest to bring something to his performance as Adam, but his character is so poorly written that his only defining feature is his nihilism.  The asshole spends the next couple hundred years just fucking around forests and killing any demons who try to go after him.  Eventually the dude decides that he’s tired of hiding in the woods, so he’ll go back to civilization to hunt the demons down… so that he can go back to hiding the woods only this time without the occasional demon punch up.  We cut to modern day, and do you wanna guess if the character has learned anything or changed at all since he went into self-imposed exile?  NO!!  Adam’s the same annoyingly cynical dummy that he was hundreds of years ago!!  How the fuck does someone live that long without learning a god damn thing!?

“Let’s see…  Yup!  They’re still people.  I hate those things, right?”

“Let’s see…  Yup!  They’re still people.  I hate those things, right?”

So he’s back in whatever town it is (I’m guessing somewhere in Germany) where everything is all modernized except the giant fucking cathedral that’s currently housing a legion of super powered gargoyles.  Remember that whole war thing?  Yeah, still secret… somehow.  Adam doesn’t even head to the cathedral and instead decides to walk down random alleys until demons find him so that he can kill them.  Sure enough, he does find some and we get another admittedly decent fight scene.

FWOOSHHHH!!!!

FWOOSHHHH!!!!

After disposing of these losers, Adams gets his ass kidnapped (once again) by the gargoyles before we cut to some sort of laboratory.  We see a man in a suit (so he’s obviously a bad guy) watching as his scientists try to bring a rat back to life with SCIENCE!!!

“These science waves are creating a life field so that this lifeless rat can be imbued with anti-dead particles!”

“These science waves are creating a life field so that this lifeless rat can be imbued with anti-dead particles!”

Surprisingly, the experiment works and the rat comes back to life.  The man in a suit (played by the always wonderful Bill Nighy) seems to be getting an evil boner at this revelation, but it gets cut short because one of his men has informed him that something has happened.  It turns out that one of the demons survived Adam’s onslaught and came back to inform Mr. Nighy who is in fact Naberius.  You may recall that he is the leader of the demons, and he must be overjoyed to find out that one of his men has confirmed that the monster he has been seeking for hundreds of years is back in town.  Actually, he’s not.

“How DARE you not throw your life away trying to kill the monster and instead inform me of his presence in the city so that I can mobilize my army!  THE NERVE!!!”

“How DARE you not throw your life away trying to kill the monster and instead inform me of his presence in the city so that I can mobilize my army! THE NERVE!!!”

Why do villains ALWAYS have to have shitty human resource practices?  Is it really so hard to make a villain who ISN’T an utter dick bag to everyone who works for them?  Just once, I want to see a scene like this end with every one of the dude’s henchmen resigning on mass.  Anyway, Naberius doesn’t end up killing the guy who gave him this valuable information, but lets him off with a very stiff warning.  We go from there to the gargoyles’ giant fucking Cathedral which isn’t even the slightest bit conspicuous in this modern city.  Does anyone in the town actually go here?  Do the angel warriors have to pretend to be monks or something during the day when the common folk visit their command center?  Adam ends up getting dropped off at one of the highest towers and is immediately chained up.

“I get the feeling you guys didn’t bring me here for tea and biscuits.”

“I get the feeling you guys didn’t bring me here for tea and biscuits.”

Of course, the gargoyles are planning on keeping his ass locked up until… I don’t know, they win the war?  Well while the gargoyles are dicking around with Adam, Naberius is pushing his scientists (who are clearly unaware that they’re being employed by Hell spawn) to take their experiments to the next step by testing on humans.  He is also mobilizing his army to make a direct attack on the cathedral to kidnap the monster.

“IT’S A GOOD THING WE’RE KEEPING THIS WAR A SECRET FROM THE HUMAN WORLD!!  THERE’S NO TELLING HOW THEY’D REACT TO DEMON AND GARGOYLE FIGHTS HAPPENING RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR DOORS!!!”

“IT’S A GOOD THING WE’RE KEEPING THIS WAR A SECRET FROM THE HUMAN WORLD!!  THERE’S NO TELLING HOW THEY’D REACT TO DEMON AND GARGOYLE FIGHTS HAPPENING RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR DOORS!!!”

Once again, the fighting here is pretty damn decent and the way they get around showing blood (keeping the movie PG-13) is pretty creative.  Whenever a demon is killed they explode into fire and go straight to hell.  When Gargoyles die, they explode into blue light and ascend into heaven.  The effects are pretty good and it gives us a decent alternative to having gore rather than just leave it out entirely.  The fighting goes on for a while and the gargoyles find themselves outnumbered.  Obviously they let Adam go at some point to join in on the action, and in the end they end up rebutting the demons, though not without significant loses.  The demons may have retreated, but the gargoyles are almost wiped out and their leader has been kidnapped.  Adam grabs one of the remaining demons and interrogates him to find out where Leonore is and goes off to find her while the remaining gargoyles are still regrouping.  Gideon (despite not being present for the interrogation) seems to not only know where Leonore is, but knows exactly what the demons want in exchange for it.  So we have Gideon heading to where Leonore is being held (some abandoned theater) with Frankenstein’s diary in hand, while Adam is heading there as well with nothing more than his bashing sticks.  You know, if you guys bothered to coordinate, you might have come up with a decent plan.  Instead, Gideon exchanges the diary for Leonore and Adam comes by two minutes later to smash some demon heads.

“What the fuck!?  We gave you Lenore back!!”     “You did?”

“What the fuck!?  We gave you Lenore back!!”     “You did?”

Thanks Adam.  I’m sure that killing off those three demons is going to amount to a big ol’ hill of beans when Naberius uses your father’s diary to make an army of undead soldiers.  Oh wait, is that supposed to be a spoiler?  I mean, the movie hasn’t SAID why the demons want Adam or the diary, but why the hell else WOULD they want those things?  Adam, despite getting to the party late, ends up following one the demon who now has the book (and was the one leading the attack).  Adam is led right to the evil corporation/science lab/demon headquarters where it’s apparently super easy to sneak in.  Seriously, a place that’s this fucking expensive should have more than a single fucking keycard as its primary means of security.  We cut to what APPEARS to be a parking garage, but might be a morgue, where Naberius is hanging out for some reason.  The one demon who has the book (Zuriel) presents it to his master and proceeds to get his ass kicked because he didn’t follow Naberius’s instructions and get him the monster.  No wait, he accepts the book without even a stern glare.  Well jeez dude!  Why the hell did you beat the shit out of the other guy!?  He didn’t even disobey a direct order like Zuriel did!!  Anyway, Adam is sneaking around this place when he comes upon a door that leads to an IMPOSSIBLY GIGANTIC ROOM that’s filled with nothing but corpses.

“Huh.  I wonder what’s in here.  Oh.  Thousands of corpses tied to an insanely elaborate electrical grid thingy.  I wouldn’t have put it next to the elevator, but then again I’m not the one who has to work here.”

“Huh.  I wonder what’s in here.  Oh.  Thousands of corpses tied to an insanely elaborate electrical grid thingy.  I wouldn’t have put it next to the elevator, but then again I’m not the one who has to work here.”

One has to wonder why Naberius used so many resources to set up this elaborate system when he doesn’t even know how to bring bodies back to life yet.  What if the dopey scientists tell him that the red cable has to go on the RIGHT temple instead of the left?  Is he going to call all his demon minions in and have them carefully readjust each harness?  Speaking of the scientists; Naberius gives them the diary so that they can use it to perfect their reanimation project.  The two of them (we’ll call them Hot Blonde and Dopey Old Guy) are somewhat surprised, but not as much as you’d think.  I guess if you’re working for an evil corporation to bring back dead bodies, it can’t be all that unbelievable that you’d find yourself with the personal diary of a fictional mad scientist.  Adam eventually finds the science lab and decides to destroy all his hard work sneaking though this building by jumping through a window and setting off the alarm.  Asshole, you couldn’t have taken the stairs!?

You can see the door he could have used!  It couldn’t have been THAT hard to find it!

You can see the door he could have used!  It couldn’t have been THAT hard to find it!

Recognizing the guy almost immediately (the book has some nice illustrations), Hot Blonde gives the diary to Adam but then the room is swarmed by demon dudes in suits.  Naberius gives his best “join the Dark Side” speech, but Adam isn’t buying it.  He’s too cool to deal with men in suits!  He’s an original!!  Adam then jumps out of a five story window, crashes through the fucking ground, and lands on a passing subway car.  Okay, THAT was awesome!!  Naberius isn’t too thrilled about the monster escaping and sends his goons to find him.  Hot Blond (okay, her name is Dr. Wade) has a few questions about what the fuck just happens, but Naberius tells her to take the night off.  On her way home, Adam finds her (I don’t quite know how) and starts to give her an exposition dump about the gargoyles and demons but the conversation gets cut short.  It turns out that Naberius is a master strategist because he ordered Zuriel to track the girl in case Adam tries to contact her.  Wait, why is Adam bothering with her?  Didn’t he already get the diary back?  Wait, why does he want the diary?  Wait, when did he know about the diary?  I don’t think he was around to watch the diary get traded for Leonore’s life, so did he only learn about it when he saw Dr. Wade reading it in the lab?  Oh look!  Another decent action scene!

What was I talking about again?

What was I talking about again?

Zuriel ends up kicking Adam’s ass and gives the audience a one dimensional villain speech where he explained the bad guys’ plans to the main character while a secondary character gets into position to fuck everything up.  Wow, where have I seen the before?  Anyway, the idea is that there are a shit ton of demons in hell just waiting to possess bodies, but LIVING bodies tend to have souls that get in the way.  Reanimated bodies however don’t appear to have souls, so if Naberius can perfect the reanimation process then he can have an army of demon possessed dead people to take out the gargoyles and take over the world.  Wait, if the demons can’t possess human bodies that have souls in them, where did they get the bodies they are currently using?  Does each demon get a single use body before they have to acquire someone else’s?  Wait, if they can possess bodies without souls, why didn’t they just possess Adam from the beginning!?  Why are they bothering to fight him when they can just have a flunkey from Hell come up and take him over?  Oh look!  The secondary character distracted the villain long enough for the hero to get a weapon and stab him in the heart!

I could have sworn I was talking about something…

I could have sworn I was talking about something…

After the fight, Dr. Wade takes Adam to… her apartment I guess?  The place is a completely run down shit hole with an army cot, peeling walls, a dirty sink, and no visible toilet or bathroom.  Maybe this is Adam’s place considering he’s too broody and angsty to shit in anything other than a bucket (toilets are just the governments way of controlling your bowels), and I can’t imagine a guy who’s been unemployed for hundreds of years could get a lease anywhere decent.  Dr. Wade patches Adam up, and he takes a nap while she finishes the diary.  He wakes up some time later (it couldn’t have been that long considering its still night outside) and the good doctor offers to make Adam a companion like Frankenstein originally planned to.  Now THIS is interesting!  I’d LOVE to see this film’s interpretation of the bride!  Too bad this is the ONLY TIME THIS SUBPLOT IS BROUGHT UP!!  God damn it movie.  Dr. Wade gets a call from Dopey Old Guy (his name is Carl) and then she tells him to GTFO before Naberius does something to him.  Oh wait, he’s caught immediately after the phone call.  MAN this movie is predictable.  The demons use Carl to lure Dr. Wade into a trap and capture her while Adam goes to Leonore to get her assistance in stopping Naberius’s plan to raise an undead army.  Adam’s proposition is simple; Get him and the scientist out of the city, and he’ll tell the Gargoyles where to find Naberius.  Wait a minute; they don’t know where he is already!?  HIS HEADQUARTERS IS WITHIN A MILE OF YOURS YOU INCOMPETENT LOSERS!!  Ugh… Leonore agrees to Adam’s demands and tells him to get the scientist back to the cathedral.  After Adam leaves however, she goes full turn coat and orders Gideon to kill him once he has the journal.  Great!  Who exactly are we supposed to care about at this point?  I mean, the gargoyles were sort of sticks in the mud (and definitely idiots) but they were at least the good guys in this story.  All this dopey twist does is make the gargoyles that much more which unlikable to us and brings the total number of somewhat likable characters to… zero.  Well, Bill Nighy is always fun.  Fuck it.  Let the demons win.  Once Adam gets back to the apartment, he finds that Dr. Wade is not there but the diary still is.  Gideon then immediately pounces and the fight scene here (once again) is pretty decent.  It’s got a really nice tracking shot that reminded me just a tiny bit of the famous one from Evil Dead.  Of course, the fight ends with Gideon getting killed.  Not through Adam’s skill, but Gideon’s own fucking stupidity to fall on his own fucking axe.

“Huh.  Well that was dumb.”

“Huh.  Well that was dumb.”

While gargoyles are wasting their god damn time on this, Naberius is forcing Dr. Wade to finish the reanimation experiment so that he can take over the world.  Great use of your limited fucking resource there Leonore!  Go after the one fucking guy who ISN’T actively trying to destroy you and all of humanity.  The experiment is complete which cause a giant doo-dad to start giving off electricity or something.  We now have a ticking clock because the dead bodies are slowly becoming reanimated (I always figured it would be a rather swift process) and each body is fitted with a nifty little counter.

How exactly do you measure something like that?

How exactly do you measure something like that?

Adam I guess knows what happened to Dr. Wade and decides to save her (but not before burning the diary because of reasons).  Despite the gargoyles constantly fucking him over, he decides to show them to the demon home base by walking up to Cathedral, spreading his arms in the traditional “come at me bro” gesture, and walks off to the bad guy’s hide out like he don’t give a fuck.  The dumbasses take the bait hook line and sinker and Leonore (along with all the remaining gargoyles) start to give chase.

“HUNT HIM DOWN AND KILL HIM!!  Say, has anyone else ever noticed that giant fucking palace he’s running towards?”

“HUNT HIM DOWN AND KILL HIM!!  Say, has anyone else ever noticed that giant fucking palace he’s running towards?”

Adam eventually leads them to the bad guys’ hide out, and about 20 guys in suits come out to find out who’s fucking up the front yard.  Adam starts to kick some demon ass and the gargoyles FINALLY realize what the fuck is going on.  WAS IT REALLY SO HARD TO FIND THIS PLACE!?!?  Adam JOGGED from your home base to here!!  While the gargoyles deal with the demons in the courtyard, Adam goes inside to take care of Naberius.

“I’m too cool to move any faster than a leisurely stroll.”

“I’m too cool to move any faster than a leisurely stroll.”

Adam finds Naberius still looking over Dr. Wade’s shoulder while she’s doing science stuff and informs the demon prince that he’s got an ass whooping that’s long overdue.  Naberius turns into his true demon form (which reminded me of the transformation sequence in The Story of Ricky) and the two of them start to fight.  While that is going on, Leonore and a few other gargoyles find the body room and see that the reanimation process is almost complete.  Realizing what this means, the gargoyles start to destroy the machinery and the corpses as fast as they can.  Speaking of beating up dead bodies, Adam is starting to lose his fight and Naberius decides that NOW would be a good time to have a demon soul try to possess his sorry ass.

“I’m not doing a fucking sequel!”     “Oh yeah?  We’ll see about that.”

“I’m not doing a fucking sequel!”     “Oh yeah?  We’ll see about that.”

Of course, it ends up not working because of reasons.  Adam has a soul, or he’s to angsty to possess, or whatever the fuck it is, and this revelation distract Naberius long enough for Adam to land a killing blow.  Naberius gets dragged back to hell with such fucking ferocity that it takes out the while building AND the corpse factory that Leonore and the gargoyles are trying to destroy, leaving nothing but a giant smoldering crater.  Adam and Dr. Wade are brought back to the Cathedral and the Leonore promises not to try and kill Adam again.  Pinkie swear!  And so the movie ends with Arron Eckhart standing on a rooftop while monologue about how he’s the protector of the innocent and will fight the bad guys whenever they decide to come back and how he REALLY should have been Batman instead of Christian Bale.

“I am vengeance!  I am the NIGHT!!  I!  AM!  …Frankenstein.”

“I am vengeance!  I am the NIGHT!!  I!  AM!  …Frankenstein.”

This movie is TERRIBLE.  I wanted to like it because I’ve always been a fan of Arron Eckhart and the fight scenes appeared to have been done well.  The problem is that the movie is too damn serious to be fun and too damn stupid to be engaging.  It kills me because even with a script this terrible, it could have been saved by an actor who could have played Adam with a bit of sardonic wit and a sense of humor.  You know, an actor like ARRON ECKHART!!!  HOW DO YOU FUCK UP SO BAD THAT YOU GET THE GUY FROM “THANK YOU FOR SMOKING” TO PLAY ONE OF THE DULLEST CHARACTERS I’VE SEEN IN YEARS!?!?  I’m guessing that the reason they upped the angst factor so high is because the character is supposed to be like the monster from other films.  The thing is that the monster ISN’T a nihilistic asshole!  He’s usually sad and hates humanity, but when the monster is done right, he’s also constantly hoping for better things.  He was always lonely but he WANTED to be accepted.  He wanted to be loved!!  The monster is supposed to be TRAGIC, not BADASS!!  The movie either had to commit to the monster being a misunderstood loner who fought because he knew how to do it but always longed for more, OR make him a loveable badass who the audience will follow to the ends of the Earth and will laugh along with him when everyone else turns out to be idiots.  The fight scenes are decent and it’s nice to see a PG-13 movie get creative with its limitations, but the story makes no sense, the characters are dumbasses that make weird and stupid decisions, and our main character is an unlikable loser.  Don’t give this uninteresting slog of a film the time of day.  Watch Army of Darkness instead.

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3 thoughts on “Living on Netflix: I, Frankenstein

  1. Pingback: Cinema Dispatch: Terminator Genisys | The Reviewers Unite!

  2. Pingback: Cinema Dispatch: Victor Frankenstein | The Reviewers Unite!

  3. Pingback: Cinema Dispatch: Incarnate | The Reviewers Unite!

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