Sunday, January 22, 2017

I, Frankenstein (2014) and Movies That Are Sequels to Established Non-Movie Stories

“You’re only a monster if you behave like one.” –Terra, I, Frankenstein

Sequels have been a part of cinema since its inception.  There have always been sequels.  Though some may have been very loosely tied to the originals, and movies were sold more on actors than the properties themselves, there has always been an area within the movie world devoted to continuing stories.  This came from literature and life itself.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had a sequel called Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.  Shakespeare wrote Antony and Cleopatra after writing Julius Caesar, a sequel in both literature and life.  Sequels were popular before motion pictures were even conceived.

Movies have come a long way with sequels.  There have been many different kinds of sequels experimented with.  There were movies that took the themes and stories of the predecessors and turned them into a sequel with an almost entirely new cast.  Some sequels were the same cast on a new adventure.  We’ve had sequels that were spin-offs with a side character becoming the new lead, and we’ve had sequels that completely aped the first movie with the same cast and story.  The kind of sequel that I want to focus on in this post is one that I touched on with Hercules in New York.  That is, sequels to established stories that are not sequels to movies.

This form of sequel is interesting in that it doesn’t stem from a film.  The sequel is a film sequel of some other form of storytelling.  Hercules in New York was a sequel to the Hercules legend that has been passed down for century upon century.  This week’s movie, I, Frankenstein, is an action heavy sequel to the novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.  Also in this camp is the movie Hook, which is a sequel to the play Peter Pan.  Each of the movies assumed that the audience knew the original story.  There were hints at what had happened before, possibly with a slight recap, but the filmmakers were depending on the audience to be familiar with the story.

Let’s begin with this week’s movie.  I, Frankenstein was released in 2014.  It followed Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart), as he became a pawn in the war between gargoyles and demons.  Yes, that’s how insane the story got.  The gargoyles, led by Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto), tried to enlist his help.  They even gave him the name Adam to persuade him to join their side.  Adam turned down their offer and struck out on his own to kill the demons that were out to get him.  He ended up fighting Naberius (Bill Nighy), a demon prince who was using human scientist Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) to reanimate corpses as soulless vessels for demons to possess.

I, Frankenstein is not how people should go about creating a sequel to an established story.  The story was completely different than the established one.  There was a quick recap of the original tale at the start, but it quickly veered into this new tale that removed the moral themes and added crazy computer generated effects.  It didn’t feel like it was set in the world that had been established in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.  The movie felt more like Underworld.  There were no interesting moral quandaries.  It was straight action for action’s sake, which is boring.

When a sequel to a known property is conceived, it should have a similar theme to the original or the story should be connected.  Frankenstein was not a tale of demons fighting gargoyles.  Why was that the sole story of I, Frankenstein?  If none of these game-changing elements were introduced in the source, why was the film sequel tailored to focus on them?  It is disrespectful to the audience.  They go in expecting something.  They want to feel an expansion on the topics of the predecessor.  What they get is anything but.

Hercules in New York somewhat succeeded in doing what I, Frankenstein completely ignored.  The original tale of Hercules was a legend involving a series of tasks being performed by the strongman.  He slayed some monsters, and did some other stuff that only he was able to do.  They were the labors of Hercules.  Hera was punishing him for existing and he was completing these labors to prove his worth.  It was something like that, at least.

Hera was the inciting character of Hercules in New York as well.  She banished Hercules from Olympus and made him live in New York.  Once again, the story was about Hera punishing Hercules and Hercules living with the punishment.  This adventure saw him fighting a bear and the mob instead of the hydra and other legendary creatures.  The themes of the original story were still there, making this feel more like a sequel than I, Frankenstein felt.  The setting was different, particularly in the time that it took place, but it managed to feel like a continuation rather than a bastardization.  It didn’t feel like they used the name only to have the name.  There was a reason for it.

The real highlight of this kind of storytelling, however, was the 1991 film Hook.  It took the classical tale of Peter Pan and brought it into a more modern setting, with similar themes.  Hook is how this kind of sequel should work.  It updated the story to make it feel more fitting of the time in which it was made.  It brought the part of the story set outside Neverland into the present (at the time) day.  And it brought the themes with it.  There was the whole idea of never growing old, except it was now from the perspective of a grown up Peter Pan.  It was the same theme from a different perspective, which brought a fresh take on the material.

Although each of these stories were new adventures for characters that the audience knew, there were some major differences between them which made Hook good and I, Frankenstein bad.  These were the story elements.  I’m not trying to bring up anything but the writing.  As was stated earlier, the story shouldn’t feel like it could be about any character.  It should feel like a fitting continuation of what is already known.  I, Frankenstein didn’t feel like a fitting continuation.  A story about bringing man back to life and the morality issues it causes should not be followed by an action story about gargoyles and demons.  Hook felt very fitting, continuing from a story about endless adolescence into a story about the nostalgia of childhood.  There are ways to take an idea and spin it in a new direction.  It’s about putting in the effort and care to do it properly.  It’s too bad I, Frankenstein didn’t do it.  It could have led to some interesting places.
It wouldn’t have led to these interesting notes, though:

  • I, Frankenstein was suggested to me by @ER_NotR, who has previously suggested Birdemic, Steel, and Catwoman.
  • Kevin Grevioux was in I, Frankenstein.  He was also in a movie called Steel.
  • The movie Hercules in New York was mentioned in this post.
  • Have you seen I, Frankenstein?  Have you seen Hercules in New York or Hook?  What other movies that are “sequels” like this are out there?  You can discuss anything about this post in the comments section below.
  • Any bad movies that you can think of would be welcome additions to my list of suggestions.  I’m always looking for movies that I don’t know or didn’t think of that I should add to the schedule.  If you have any suggestions, let me know on Twitter or in the comments.
  • Sometimes when I’m watching bad movies, I’ll put clips into my snapchat story.  To see some of the clips, you can find me on snapchat with the username jurassicgriffin.
  • In the first few months of 2016, people were anticipating some major superhero battles.  Batman would be going up against Superman.  Captain America would be going up against Iron Man.  But there was one battle, not between superheroes, that people weren’t expecting.  Two monsters would be fighting it out on the bad movie battlefield.  Next week’s movie is called Bigfoot vs. Zombies.  It’s some insane stuff and I’m not sure what I’m going to write about it.  We’ll see in a week’s time.  Write to you later.

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