Gargoyles, Demons and Monsters, Oh My - a Review of I, Frankenstein
Before diving into the movie, I just had to take a moment to comment about how cool it was (though sub-par graphics somewhat notwithstanding) to see the gargoyles of Notre Dame come to life, fly around and battle demons in the century-long fight between good and evil. I've long-since been a fan of the gargoyle. Being a history buff and student, I love the architecture of Notre Dame de Paris, and the gargoyles perched upon it have always been one of my favorite parts of the structure itself. It's beautiful, and seeing them have a purpose and come to life was one of my favorite parts of the entire movie overall. That being said, it's time to get into the movie and deconstruct it's plot, premise and execution.
The movie begins in the past with Dr. Frankenstein and the creation of his legendary, yet somehow human monster. The monster, later named Adam in the film, is torn. He witnesses the death of his creator, and goes to bury him in his family plot at the cemetery. After the burial, however, Adam is beset by unknown beings, later recognized as demons, attempting to take Frankenstein to their master - a demon prince. Though he battled them bravely, he looks as if he will be overcome completely - until two gargoyles join the fray and "descend" the demons back to hell from whence they came. Adam is taken to Notre Dame in Paris, where he is told about the continual, century-long battle between the gargoyles of Notre Dame and the demons. The gargoyles, charged with a sacred duty by the archangel Michael, implore Adam to join the fight. The lead gargoyle pushes for Adam's destruction, but is thwarted by the gargoyle queen, who senses a spark of a potential soul in the monster and gives him a name. Adam refuses the offer, and goes his own way, battling the demons in his own way for close to two hundred years.
Eventually, Adam grows tired of living in hiding, and returns to Paris, intent on finding the demon prince and destroying him. In a battle with several demons who kill a human being in the fight, Adam is brought back to Notre Dame and locked up in chains for not playing according to the rules. The demons launch an offensive to capture him from the relative safety of the cathedral, and kidnap the gargoyle queen. The demon prince is attempting to use Dr. Frankenstein work to bring descended demons back to life, and utilizes the unwitting expertise of a human doctor in the project. Adam goes after the doctor, as they work together to understand his existence and the grand work that Frankenstein had completed centuries earlier.
As tensions mount, the gargoyles and demons fight a last, epic battle of good verses evil, and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance as each side strives for victory. Will Adam uncover a true purpose to his existence? Or will the forces of darkness overtake the powers of good once and for all?
With the exception of a few notable films like Underworld (gone into more depth in a later section), it's not altogether common to see a historical monster like Frankenstein in the modern era. That concept alone gave this movie a somewhat special flavor, but unfortunately that's as far as that special appeal went. You can take a centuries old monster and put it in the modern age, but if you are unable to develop that plot and make it meaningful, the movie falls flat - no matter how much you spend on special effects and 3D picture qualities.
The film had a great idea, and had it just run with it in a cohesive and meaningful way, it would have led to a much deeper and intriguing film overall. Unfortunately, it did not. It fell flat, and did not capture or retain my interest throughout the film as a whole. The fight scenes were cool, the idea behind the film was cool, but the uneventful parts in the middle simply didn't hold water, and any interest that I had in the movie evaporated through the cracks.
Have you Watched I, Frankenstein?
Execution, Development and Characters
Off the bat, I have to clear up a misconception. I was reading other reviews of this movie, and many people are referring to Adam as Frankenstein - and as a horror novel/movie buff, I take umbrage at this blatant misrepresentation. Dr. Frankenstein created Adam, but Frankenstein is NOT the monster. It was the monster's maker. Confusing the two drives me crazy.
That being said, I think that Aaron Eckhart played a good Adam - or Frankenstein monster. Many of the other characters, like the gargoyle queen, were played very stiffly (pun intended - what else would you expect from characters literally made of stone for a large majority of the time).
Naberius, the demon prince was simply unbelievable, and if I closed my eyes, I thought I was back in Underworld watching a rogue vampire battling werewolves. It's fitting, I suppose, since the creators of the Underworld franchise are also responsible for I, Frankenstein. The movies definitely have a similar color scheme (lots of blue/black/fire schemes at work) and a similar feel. I think the movie would have played out better had they found a way to connect the franchise, but I doubt it would have been believable or acceptable to heavy Underworld fans.
Adam was truly the only character that the audience got a feel for and got to connect to. The gargoyles were stoney, the demons were not developed at all (how deeply can you develop a demon) and the war existing between the two factions was only explained on the fly. You never really got a sense of a deeper purpose or understanding other than the us=good, them=bad typical equation.
There have been so many excellent films in this monster genre (again, I have to point to Underworld) that this one fell far short of the mark, and didn't deliver a punch like so many other films have. Aside from one likeable and predictably tragic character, the rest were like second-thoughts, necessary only for getting the audience to a place where they could understand and relate to Adam himself. With such an interesting premise, the follow-through simply wasn't up to par, though the visual effects were worth a casual watch.
While I enjoyed the visual aspects of the film, and it must have been stunning in 3D as it was released in theaters, I have to conclude that it lacked execution and fulfilling it's ultimate premise. There have been so many monster movies out there, and this particular one failed to capture my attention thoroughly and completely. It was fun to watch, but I never got thoroughly invested within it, and found myself losing interest throughout parts - so much so that I had to go back and rewatch pieces of it to put this review together. It had a good premise behind it, but it was not executed completely, or followed all the way through. While I enjoyed seeing one of my favorite monsters from the past alive and well and battling his way through the 21st century, the movie seemed slightly out of place, and other movies with similar concepts were executed much better than this one. I give this three stars, simply for how entertaining some aspects were to watch, but it could have done much, much better if more thoroughly developed and expanded.