Film Corner: I, Frankenstein

I, Frankenstein

I haven't done a live-watch in forever for a lot of reasons, but tonight we've pulled up the Amazon Prime offerings and found that "I, FRANKENSTEIN" is available. Imagine my glee. "Two hundred years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein's creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind." So, NOT the book.

Kissmate, beside me and very tired after a long Monday: "Did they make him hot? Why is he hot? Who is Aaron Eckhart? Why am I okay with them making him hot?" We get to re-use our favorite MST3K line during the opening credits: "Passed from studio to studio in a desperate attempt to save it."

The opening narration is kinda cool. "I was cast into being in 1795, a living corpse without a soul." That's a solid character introduction, I'll give them that. Adam gives us a quick rundown of that whole book thing. He says he's immune to cold, which I can't remember if that's canon or not.

After Doctor Frankie died, Adam took him back to his family cemetery and buried him. The cemetery is full of vampires who turn out to be demons...who are also vampires. I GUESS? (Kissmate: "They look like low-budget Dragonborns!") There's also a purple-eyed gargoyle who is...present? The action is hard to follow. (Kissmate: "Is this supposed to be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies all over again?")

We have to pause because *I'm* wondering if this is one of those "Dark Universe" things, like Dracula Untold or The Mummy 4: Tom Cruise Gets Beaten Up By A Girl, but no, it's not by Universal. I haven't read Frankenstein since college, so I really do appreciate all of you who've chimed in to state that Doctor Frankster prioritized having a pretty corpse-man, for totally heterosexual reasons I'm sure.

Purple-eyed gargoyle kills the demons, saves Adam, and resolves into the prettiest man in all of creation, so we're feeling pretty good about our choice of movies. He's going to be Adam's love interest, I hope. Oh shit, there's also a boring girl angel. Anyone want to lay bets which one Adam will love-interest at? The angel-gargoyles capture Adam and discuss whether or not to kill him so the demons can't have him. The Gargoyle Queen decides to be gentle to him. At least it's nice to have a protagonist who is scarred.

Gargoyle Queen infodumps some random shit about the "666 legions of Hell" so we're adding the Bible to the list of books that will not be represented accurately in this film, I see. "Humans think of us as mere decoration," the Gargoyle Queen says and I am hyperventilating a little. Is this art? Perhaps this is art.

Angel Gideon objects that the monster is, you know, a murderer. (He killed Victor Frankenstein's wife, though how the gargoyles know that, I cannot tell you.) Gargoyle Queen says that was done "in the heat of passion" and you can't blame a man for his emotional emotions. Huh. She names him Adam. Doesn't even ask his consent to name him, so that's weirdly heavy-handed. Christian angels' whole thing is supposed to be respecting free will, right?!

We're just speeding through exposition now. Here are the angelic weapons, here's holy water, here's the sacred mark of the Gargoyle Order, here's how to kill demons, here's some hitting-sticks, go nuts kiddo. Adam turns down their offer to stay and hits the road again because he has angst to do elsewhere and having a home full of the only people who've ever been nice to him doesn't appeal. He monologues about how dangerous trust is because people inevitably betray you, et cetera. Years pass and he learns he's immortal and doesn't age.

After an indeterminate number of centuries which bring us to the present day, Adam randomly decides to go back to the gargoyles and join the fight against the demons because he's....bored, I guess? There's literally no reason given for this sudden change in motivation after 200 years or so. Adam stalks through a nightclub looking for demons, which continue to look and act just like vampires while in their human forms (at least until they put on their plastic dragonborn masks). Adam confronts a demon-vampire for a classic city-alley chase.

Somewhere in a science lab, the Vampire Lord--who is played by the same actor who plays the Vampire Lord in UNDERWORLD, so that's going to get confusing--watches as two scientists reanimate a cute dead rat. IT'S ALIIIIVE. Meanwhile, the gargoyles capture Adam again because I guess they've had a change of heart. I love them just flying around at night and nobody notices.

Vampire Lord asks when the scientists will be able to reanimate humans and they protest that "Frankenstein is a myth!" because remember we're inside the Mary Shelley verse where he actually existed, as opposed to being a book. I've been wondering why demons want Adam and/or his kind so badly, but Kissmate says there was a line I missed in which it was established that gargoyles can only be killed by soulless creatures. So the demonic goal is an army of Adams? Cool.

Back at the Gargoyle Order with Adam, the Gargoyle Queen's acting notes were apparently "be the most Karen possible" so she now rips into Adam with a scolding: he's waging open war, yada yada, and endangering the masquerade, does he want humans to learn about the vampire demon, and he's grounded mister. Whyyyy is there a masquerade to keep the humans from knowing about angels and demons, actually? It's not like in vampire fiction where they don't want humans to know because humans would band together to exterminate them. The angels have no reason to conduct their, uh, business in secret.

Adam says he's not one of her soldiers to order around and she goes full bigot on him: unlike humans, he isn't of God so he doesn't get free choice and she gets to decide for him. She leaves him tied to a chair, apparently planning to keep him there forever. Humane! Adam looks miserable at being betrayed again, as he always believed would happen.

The vampire demons plan an assault on the cathedral in order to retrieve Adam from the gargoyles. An action scene occurs which flies in direct violation of Queen Karen's "we don't fight demons in the streets!!" speech five minutes earlier. WHAT. This masquerade is impossible! How can they be secret? When an angel dies--as several do here--a beacon of blue light floods the night sky and ascends to heaven. The demons, in contrasts, explode like firebombs. IN THE STREET.

@liminalfruitbat. Let me guess, this movie will present Adam as having free will, sapience, and consciousness, and will never explain what soullessness actually entails? (Also, do demons have souls? Do animals? If they can reanimate mice they can reanimate bears is all I'm saying.)

Apparently demons do not have souls (since they can kill gargoyles) and no, I do not understand what "soullessness" means in this context. For the record, though I've said the angels and demons are being "killed" in combat, the plot has made a big deal about them ascending to heaven or descending to hell, respectively. In case you were worried about the metaphysics of a "dead" angel.

Kissmate points out--and this isn't a good thing--that every character in this movie is better established, personality-wise, than Adam. Adam has no goals (not even the classic Vonnegutian "glass of water"). He seems to move and act according to the demands of the plot. Even his choice to leave the demons alone and then to come back to face them seemed less of a character-driven choice and more here just to fast-forward us to present-day with all our interesting science possibilities for reanimating the dead.

Anyway, to review: (a) "Soulless" has not been explained or defined, (b) This masquerade where humans don't know anything about the supernatural is flatly impossible, and (c) Demons explode into fire when they die whereas angels become those blue beacons they use at car-sales lots.

@achouck23. So then they don't technically need Adam? Like it would be different if it was two sides that couldn't technically kill each other and Adam was the lynchpin who could kill both.

Apparently the demons only "need" Adam in order to show him to their human scientist so she can unlock the mystery of corpse-reanimation for humans.

@liminalfruitbat. Can they die from accidents? If a building falls on one of them, are they perma-killed? Do buildings have souls? If you put them in a Rube-Goldberg deathtrap, does that insulate them from your soul for purposes of death?

Unsatisfyingly, the question of whether or not an angel-gargoyle can survive being immersed into a vat of boiling acid is not touched upon. Though we *do* see a demon explode after an angel-gargoyle hurls him into a piece of cathedral. (Wait, do the angel-gargoyles not have souls either?)

The hot man-gargoyle (Ophir) frees Adam so he can fight for his life. Kissmate observes that this is either going to get gay (which we very much want) or Ophir is going to die in order to prevent gayness. Girl-Gargoyle is scratched and bleeds blue light. Ophir dies. Kissmate and I are angry but not surprised. Girl-Gargoyle is given a name just long enough for her to reveal that she and Ophir were forbidden lovers because the Gargoyle Order doesn' I don't know, I just work here. Then she dies/ascends to rejoin Ophir. That *was* unexpected. Are we going to get out of this movie without a love interest subplot? Because that would be so very refreshing!

The Gargoyle Queen apparently has no fighting skills whatsoever (why?) and her guards don't have the discipline to stay with her (WHY?) so now the demons have kidnapped her and Adam wants to rescue her even while the demons point out he do that? The Queen is being held in exchange for Adam. Apparently it's really important to get her back because she's their only link to the archangels, and god only knows what THOSE are.

Gideon doesn't know where Adam is (and therefore can't offer him up to the demons in exchange for the Queen) but he does have Frankenstein's journal. He offers that, even though he really shouldn't know the demons want it. An exchange occurs. The journal is conveyed to the Head Vampire, and we receive this line: "This is everything we need to bring back our fallen." What the actual fucknuggets? We'd been assuming they wanted to create corpse-people to kill gargoyles. They actually want to create corpse-people to...provide bodysuits to fallen demons? Maybe? I DO NOT KNOW.

I am pausing at the 36 minute mark to tell you: this movie is bad? This movie is bad. The protagonist is a blank wall, the "good" guys are insufferable assholes, the villain motivations are impenetrable thus far, and the action scenes are badly choreographed. The downside, really, to having everyone wear silly plastic masks during battle is that you lose all emotional connection and don't know who is dying or what they feel or really anything about what you are seeing.

Adam breaks in and explores the science place and finds a million corpses, NOT EVEN REFRIGERATED, and they all have pentagrams carved into their foreheads. Vampire Lord gives the Frankenstein journal to his scientists. They look utterly astonished, which feels odd to me because if Elon Musk gave me King Arthur's accounts book I'd just assume he was taken in by a con artist. Like, "Sir, I'll go authenticate this but uhhh I hope you kept the receipt." and then I gotta hope I don't get fired for telling him this thing has been dipped in tea to age it.

The scientist, delighted by Frankie's notes, realize he harnessed electricity with "six electric eels generating 500 volts each". Kissmate is screaming and googling on the couch next to me. "The average shock of an electric eel lasts two-thousands of a second," Kissmate reports. The science in this movie is so bad I want to cry. It's so soft you could spread it on a roll.

Adam breaks in and takes the journal from Blond Girl Scientist (there are only two scientists, because that's all you need to reanimate the dead) and she's already doing the Tarzan thing of falling in love with his intelligent eyes. Vampire Lord reasons with Adam and I kinda like that the demons have a higher charisma stat than the angels. That feels instinctively correct; their whole thing is temptation, after all. However it doesn't work on Adam because Adam doesn't have goals to tempt him with, and he escapes from the vampires for reasons that aren't clear. Now the demons are hunting Adam again.

Reading on the bus, Adam devours the journal as if he's never read it before even though he was lugging it around with Victor at the beginning of the film and (apparently?) chose to bury the journal with him. (Kissmate: "He changed over the 200 years we didn't see and now wants to read it? I guess?") Girl Scientist goes home and Adam accosts her because he "needs someone to help him make sense of the journal". So, yeah, he apparently never asked Victor anything about himself (even though they had at least one conversation about making Adam a companion), nor read the journal when he was younger. Character development could explain these things, but we don't have any of that.

Adam explains that Blondie's boss is a vampire-demon-prince and that there's a war going on for the soul of mankind or possibly their existence. He tells her there's an army of corpses waiting to be reanimated. Blondie tells him that she doesn't believe in demons and possibly he suffered brain damage during the reanimation process, so it's rather lucky that a demon shows up that exact moment to put on his rubber dragon mask and prove his existence to her.

"There are millions of demon spirits trapped in hell waiting for the chance to possess a human body" so demons don't have SOULS but they do have SPIRITS and oh god I'm getting flashbacks to when I was a kid and the cult I was in had Very Strong Opinions About This. Anyway "a demon spirit can only possess a body that has no soul" and presumably they also need the pentagram-forehead (otherwise they'd have possessed Adam, surely?) but if Adam is the first of his kind how do they even know this is possible?

Every possession in the Bible is now fake, there has never once been a possession before, they are working towards the very first (and second, and third, and so on) possession because Adam is THE FIRST ANIMATE HUMAN BODY LACKING A SOUL. And you could say, "Ana, what about corpses? They could possess those maybe," but counterpoint if it were that simple then why go to all this trouble with Adam, no, it has to be a living body without a soul, and thus this plot makes no damn sense.

Girl Scientist saves Adam's life by arguing that she needs him alive, and the distraction is enough to let Adam kill the demon. Girl Scientist carries him back to a shitty apartment that cannot possibly be hers. Maybe he stays here? Idk. She ogles his shirtless body and it's kinda nice to see someone with scars like mine being viewed as sexy. I wish it were happening in a better movie.

Adam predicts that the demon army will kill the rest of the gargoyles, then turn against humans and enslave them. I guess? Every motivation in this movie seems to be plot-based rather than character-driven. Girl Scientist asks Adam about Frankster, and it's so very clear that the writers did not think about what Victor's work (and DEAD WIFE) looked like to people inside the novel.

"He disappeared after his wife...died," she says tactfully, knowing that Adam was responsible, and she cannot possibly know this. The wife was clearly dead from violence and her husband fled and was never heard from again; people would just naturally assume that HE killed her. Who would even be around to spread the version in which Adam did it, when Victor was the only person to know about Adam? The writers couldn't forget that the Mary Shelley book DOES NOT EXIST in the internal universe of that book. Kissmate maintains that the entire Frankenstein concept feels very tacked on.

Blondie calls her co-worker and tells him to get out of town right away, but of course demons are listening to their phone calls and Blondie is quickly recaptured while Adam goes to talk to the gargoyles. (Never split the party!) Queen Karen continues to be a huge bitch for no reason whatsoever even while Adam warns them about the corpse-army. He tells them he needs help getting himself and Blondie out of town. (He can't take the bus because why?)

Showing no character consistency whatsoever, Queen Karen--who is, I remind you, an ACTUAL ANGEL--lies shamelessly to Adam saying she'll help him get out of town and then orders Gideon to follow, betray, and murder Adam. I understand trying to have shades of gray morality but she's been loosely characterized as an Angelic Idealist! Now she just effortlessly lied easily to someone who she plans to betray worse than that Satan guy they mentioned earlier. That should be a huge character moment, not a passing blip. I feel it's a weakness when your villainous demons seem to be dealing with the hero in basically good faith while his angelic allies keep abusing, detaining, and betraying him.

Adam returns to his apartment to pick up the precious 200-years-old delicate journal he roughly stashed under his dirty mattress and Gideon attacks him in a way that blows up the entire outside apartment wall. And then the ENTIRE BUILDING. And then a CAR out on the street. Gideon then slips and lands on his own double-sided axe and dies. Having Adam kill an angel would've been ethically complicated, I guess.

Even though Adam spent the whole movie not caring about anyone, has now been betrayed by angels (as he always believed he would be, because trust leads to betrayal in his mindset), and has reason to assume he's been betrayed by the Girl Scientist based on certain events, he is now idealistic enough and cares about humanity enough to burn the precious journal which is the entire key to understanding himself and making another so he isn't condemned to an eternity of loneliness. Okay.

Back at the labs, Vampire Lord kills Guy Scientist in order to "motivate" Girl Scientist into bringing him back to life. It takes her about five minutes even though she's never done it before. And this is enough to immediately streamline the process for bulk processing: the basement-corpses light up with little "Reanimating 1%" Windows progress bars on their chests.

Adam lures the gargoyles into following him into war by....slouching down the city streets in a cool trenchcoat? I don't know ANYONE'S motivation, you could literally roll a dice for their emotions right now. (Hey, ARE there emotion-dice? I could use that as a Dungeon Master. I see dice with smiley faces on them, but I'd rather have mood-words because I'm not good at reading faces under pressure.) Anyway, the gargoyles follow him like children following a trail of jelly beans.

We finally get to see Gargoyle Queen's gargoyle form and she looks like pure white marble because fucking colorism. The gargoyles swarm Adam as he walks and destroy the surrounding buildings. ("We don't fight in the streets," Kissmate deadpans from earlier.) We agree that the only thing we like about this movie is the way the gargoyle wings resolve into cloaks. THAT part is cool. Everything else sucks. The gargoyles realize that Adam has brought them to the vampire hideout corporate building which....apparently they didn't know the location of before? Why not?

"The Gargoyle Order MUST survive, and mankind with it," decrees Adam, who has now been betrayed by both (a) all gargoyles and (b) every human he's interacted with for any meaningful length of time. The progress bar for reanimation blips from 40.5% complete to 92% complete, so THAT part is accurate at least. And then...Wow, I have to unpack this.

In order to prevent an army of demons from possessing the reanimated corpses en masse, the angels start destroying the reanimated people in a fiery blaze. That's KINDA UPSETTING after a movie's length of being told that Adam is a *person* and a he/him, not an it. What was the point of humanizing a reanimated corpse as a *person* only to then have angels murder thousands of innocent nearly-reanimateds when they did nothing wrong? This is essentially a celestial nine-month abortion scene and I'm not okay. The campy VAN HELSING movie handled this entire concept so much better.

We also now learn that the Gargoyle Queen *can* fight, because we see her killing the reanimated corpses with dual-wield daggers. So earlier when she got taken prisoner by one single demon on his own she just didn't want to protect herself. I guess. Upstairs, Adam goes through a demonic possession then turns out to be un-possessable because he has a soul after all, PLOT TWIST I GUESS?

Me: "Did Adam ever actually kill a gargoyle?"
Kissmate: "Only the one who fell on his own axe. We're probably not supposed to count that."

Anyway. It's morning in the city. Gargoyles are flying in the skies above the city, but there's nobody on the ground to notice because cities are notorious for late-sleepers. There's a giant crater into literal fiery hell where Vampire MegaCorp Inc used to be. Queen Karen carries Adam and Girl Scientist out of the hole. As a final pan-out, we get the "reveal" that the sacred gargoyle symbol all along was a styled crucifix, which...I mean, yeah, they're Christian angels? I wasn't expecting a Wiccan triple moon. What a shocker!

Adam does a little "I, Frankenstein" monologue at the end (because he now considers himself to be Victor's son rather than his creation, DO YOU GET IT) and we slam cut to credits that inform us this was based on a visual novel. Welp. I feel like I would've liked this a lot more if the writing had been less shit? There's really only so much you can do with a protagonist whose motivations are randomized, and with allies who are absolute assholes. All that needed fixing.


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