I am, by principle, two things:
- Extremely selective about the movies I go see.
- Extremely obsessed with Frankenstein.
These two principles were in direct opposition last night when Marx and I headed to the Fenway cinema for the Friday night showing of iFrankenstein. Oh, you haven’t heard of iFrankenstein? That might be because it’s actually called, “I, Frankenstein” but come on.
So iFrankenstein. If you aren’t familiar with it, please take a second to acquaint yourself with the trailer.
So that’s iFrankenstein. You can probably get a good idea of its quality just based on those winning two minutes and thirty-one seconds. If that didn’t convince you, know that the film has, as the MT gleefully pointed out to me, a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even the new Smurfs movie had a higher rating than that.
Watching that trailer, every instinct in me screamed to stay away.
But the smaller, yet louder part of my brain screamed “BUT FRANKENSTEIN!”
So my patient and long-suffering friend Marx let me drag her to iFrankenstein last night.
And friends, it was bad. Horrifically bad. Monstrous1. As gloriously appalling as I hoped it would be.
At first, Marx and I did a lot of giggling and being generally and unapologetically disruptive. But just before the climax, Marx and I both got bad movie fatigue, a common condition where a disaster of a film suddenly stops being so bad it’s funny and instead you start to feel like your brain is liquefying and sliding out through your ears. In order to distract myself from my steadily dropping IQ, I tried to think about what I, as an aspiring writer and storyteller, could learn from this Hindenburg-sized disaster that was iFrankenstein.
So here are a few storytelling lessons from iFrankenstein.
Taglines do not make good dialogue. I’m pretty sure this entire movie consisted of lines that were made to be said in a deep, low voice while in close up with an intense look on the actor’s2 face. Dialogue was not a high priority in this film. In fact, I think 90% of the script is in the trailer.
Follow your own rules. So for a reason never explained, Frankenstein’s monster, who this movie christens Adam Frankenstein3, is immortal4. Not just immortal. Indestructible. He falls off buildings. He gets thrown off bridges. He crashes through a square and onto a moving subway train. And he’s fine. Except then, every time the movie needed him to be weak or incapacitated, somebody would lightly shove him and he would collapse into a shaking, useless heap of a reanimated man. If you’re gonna make these nonsensical world building rules, you gots to follow them all the time, not just when it’s convenient.
Setting! It is important! Setting is probably my favorite aspect of any novel or movie. I’m a setting junkie. So iFrankenstein’s first setting issue was that I was totally uncertain what city this was set in. What city is this that has both a big-ass cathedral for the gargoyles to live in and a big-ass castle for the demons to live in, yet is huge enough that neither of those groups seem to be aware that the other’s big-ass structure exists. Then, there were these huge jumps in location. Such as at the end, when the Demons’s big-ass castle starts imploding for no apparent reason. Adam and Yvonne Strahovki’s characters are inside and both mostly passed out on the floor! Oh no! Then we get one shot of demon v. gargoyle fighting action. Then suddenly Adam and Yvonne are falling off the roof! No, not running up to the roof. Not running across the roof. Falling off the roof. Weren’t they just passed out on the laboratory floor? Yes6. Yes they were.
Never employ reoccurring phrases that can’t be said with a straight face. Props to Miranda Otto for repeatedly uttering the phrases “Gargoyle Queen” and “High Order of the Gargoyle” without cracking. Oh Miranda Otto. How far you’ve fallen since ripping off your helmet and crying “I am no man!” on the fields of Gondor.
Apply morals with a light hand. Was there a theme? No. Any sort of over-arching character arc5 or internal struggle for anyone? No. Even really a reason for Adam, the main character, to be in the movie? Nope. The whole movie was just a vehicle for exploding things7 and poor special effects in which men transformed into creatures that seemed a cross between the Skeksis in Dark Crystal and the cactus people in Doctor Who. And then every once in a while, you’d be hit with a speeding train of a moral. I think there was actually an audible thunk a few times. Adam can’t be destroyed by the demons because he has a soul after all!? Wow, blink and you’ll miss that life lesson!
Good adaptations walk a fine line. iFrankenstein begins with a summary of Frankenstein in its entirety. It lasts approximately thirty-eight seconds. And then the movie abandons its reported source material entirely. I’m convinced the writers have not actually read the book. Rather, they skimmed the SparkNotes. Friends, you gots to read more than the SparkNotes to write an adaptation. I’m a big fan of adaptations of classics or retellings, but there’s a fine line to walk. You can’t stick too close to the source material—there has to be something new to set your version apart. But you also can’t stray so far away that you lose your ties to what you’re adapting. If you could take the classic you’re retelling out of the story and have it remain virtually unaffected, you’re doing something wrong. So when your movie about Frankenstein’s monster is actually a movie about a war between Demons and Gargoyles…you’re doing something wrong.
Friends, this was such a horrifically terrible movie. So much cringe-worthy dialogue. So many random explosions. So much Aaron Eckhart doing his best Christian Bale Batman impression. It’s the sort of bad movie that gives bad movies a bad name.
And friends, I loved every second of it.
- See what I did there?
- Yes, Actor, because there were literally three women in this film, and they were all basically vehicles for tokenism. So glad Yvonne Strahovski (whose character name I can’t remember for the life of me) was there to be totally useless the whole movie except to ogle handsome monster with his shirt off and then be carried to safety by him. Goooood.
- ADAM. Adam Frankenstein. While I appreciated the fact that they were trying to do a Paradise Lost/Bible reference by calling him Adam, there is not a name in this world besides Victor that you can pair with Frankenstein and not have it sound moronic. Adam Frankenstein. Say it out loud a few times. Adam Frankenstein. Good grief. Why didn’t they just call him Dave Frankenstein?
- This is a terrible idea for so many reasons, the first of which is that it destroys almost all stakes for this character. Every time he’s in any danger, I thought, “No big deal. He’s immortal, so he’ll be fine.” I think the writers realized this halfway through, but instead of going back and rewriting things, they just decided to ignore it and keep trucking.
- So one of my favorite scenes in the movie was when Adam Frankenstein was walking through what I believe the cool kids are calling a disco tech. It’s full of loud music and dramatic lighting and skinny white people in metallic shirts sitting around drinking neon drinks. As Adam Frankenstein walks by, everyone looks up from their conversations and neon drinks to stare at him. Then, in one of his many nonsensical voice overs, Adam tells us something about how “People all stare at me and hate me because I am weird looking.” …uh, wrong. Friend, they are staring at you because you are super hot. I promise, those scars are only doing you favors. You are literally the most attractive person in this film so the whole “people hate me because I’m ugly” thing really doesn’t hold up.
- There were also a few points where the characters ended up in locations with no explanation as to what that place was or why there were there. Such as when Yvonne and Adam have a scene in this impossibly dingy apartment that happens to have a fully-stocked medicine cabinet so that Yvonne can stitch up Adam’s wounds. So whose apartment is this? If it’s Yvonne’s, she needs to talk to her boss about what he’s paying her as one of the top electrophysicists in the country. If it’s Adam’s, why does he go back there looking for her later? Where are we!?
- Pretty sure no one ever used a door in this movie. They all had to jump through windows or smash through walls. Or, in one nonsensical case, have a conversation through a waterfall in a train station. Also, Frankenstein’s weapon of choice is Frankensticks. You can’t make this stuff up.