Monday, February 10, 2014

I, Bill Notes on I, Frankenstein



I teach there's a difference between story and plot. Plot is about what happens, story is about why it matters.

When I saw that I, Frankenstein had a rating of 4% on Rotten Tomatoes (reviews by critics and movie goers), I wanted to see what had gone wrong.

The movie starts with a long distance shot in the mountains that looks ... fake, which becomes a standard for most of the visuals in the movie.

The movie also opens with Frankenstein's monster explaining his relationship to his creator, and why he killed Frankenstein's wife, and how Frankenstein tried to hunt him down, dying in the quest.

Instead of setting a story into motion with the introduction of a main character who embodies a story's promise, we simply have an introduction to a character.

When the monster returns to Germany to bury its creator, it is attacked by demons and rescued by gargoyles, who are fighting a war. So, before the purpose of the main character is set into motion toward some goal, instead the plot shifts to the conflict between these other characters. The upshot is that the monster doesn't want to be on either side of their war since he doesn't care what happens to humans.

And that holds for most of the movie, with the monster (named Adam by the gargoyle Queen), refusing to take sides, which also means the dramatic characters in the movie are the gargoyle Queen and the demon Prince, not the monster.

Adam does start to want something later in the film, to protect the scientist working for the demon prince, but that barely registers. He finally conveys his purpose in the last voice over of the film, that he will defend humanity from demons. He's picked a side.

The set up here is the same basic set up of John Carter, the Disney flop, with a main character who spends most of the film wanting to avoid siding with any of the warring factions on Mars.

Characters define themselves by what they want. A film with a main character who doesn't want something can be done, but it requires clear insight into storytelling. There's none of that in evidence in this movie.

The same group created Underworld, which had many of the same problems, but that film did manage to create a main character with goals, even while the first three films came across as a set up for a story the fourth film would act out. I gave up and didn't see the fourth.

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To read some of my longer reviews of popular movies, check out my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise, available on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.