Imagine the dumbest movie you have ever seen. Not just a little dumb, and not something that's just overly cheesy, but something that confounds you with its every moment. Maybe you have a standby pick for this sort of thing. If so, you might want to make a little room for I, Frankenstein.
This is special movie. I don't want to further cement my reputation as a guy who revels in awful films, but I, Frankenstein deserves a little more attention than other obviously bad movies like The Legend of Hercules or even RIPD and its weird infatuation with cumin and skullfucking.
I, Frankenstein is like listening to a nerd - a for real nerdy nerd nerd, not some squatty guy in thick glasses - tell you about a story they are writing, complete with totally ridiculous dialog, lame voices, and spit-riddled sound effects. It takes itself so seriously, and it thinks it is so cool, that disliking it almost feels like cruel bullying.
Once you imagine I, Frankenstein's text coming from the mouth of an overly confident fedora, absolutely every moment of the film becomes hilarious. But also sort of endearing. It doesn't have the same redeeming qualities one might find in Hansel & Gretel, say, but it's not a grueling, awful experience either.
I, Frankenstein runs through most of Shelley's original Frankenstein novel in its first few moments. Almost immediately after, we get thrown into the film's core dynamic. Demons and angelic gargoyles are at war with each other. The demons are winning. They can only be killed by those with no soul (and only with holy weapons). Adam - the name for Frankenstein's Monster, a topic of much debate within the film itself - has no soul. And he gets some angelic weapons. So he fights demons for 200 years. They are really eager to capture him because if the Demon Prince (!) (Bill Nighy) can figure out how to reanimate corpses, he can build an even bigger demon army and take over the world.
Both hunted by demons and hunting demons at the same time, both totally aware of his origins and desperate to learn about how he was made, both with the angel gargoyles and not with the angel gargoyles, Adam never makes sense as a character. His motivations change from one line to the next and it's best not even trying to keep up. He's good at fighting. That's about it.
Actually the fights in I, Frankenstein could be a lot worse. There's a whole thing where dead demons turn into fireballs that go to Hell, while dead angel gargoyles turn into beams of light that ascend to Heaven. Director Stuart Beattie does a good job taking advantage of this during battles. He often peppers busy CG nonsense sequences with big overview shots which allow us to gauge a battle's current status by looking at a pretty and informative light show instead.
The angel gargoyles, when they are not in Jai Courtney mode, are all CG, but some of the demons get to wear insanely goofy Halloween masks when they really mean business. I appreciate that sort of thing.
And it should also be noted that the film really moves. It's fast enough that the only boring part is when Aaron Eckhart takes off his shirt (in an embarrassing bit of Alice Eve-level "Look at my body!"). Without credits, I think the film just barely passes the 90 minute mark, which is just about perfect for something like this.
But man, is it stupid. Every character possesses a magnificent lack of intelligence. Every plot development arrives through the most far fetched and meaningless kind of movie logic. And that's just the overall picture. The real fun stuff is all in the details. There are some genuine jaw-droppers here. My favorite involves a very unlikely digital countdown reader. You'll know it when you see it.
If you see I, Frankenstein, that is. Make no mistake: This is a bad movie that should be avoided if you don't have an appetite for such a thing. I enjoyed it immensely but that's because I tend to like nerdy movies that have no idea how nerdy they are. There is not a shred of irony or self awareness to I, Frankenstein. It's not Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. You will feel sorry for everyone on screen, but with the right mindset you might also end up having a better time than you, or the people who made the film, expected.
Also: Bruce Spence alert.