2014, Stuart Beattie
Definitely the second best movie ever made where Aaron Eckhart plays a character with a disfigured face.
Trying to conjure up legitimate thoughts for I, Frankenstein (I hate this title) is probably going to end up making me like it less, but while watching it I actually didn’t think it was as bad as its reputation suggests. Yes, it’s unquestionably nothing more than an ironic assembling of scattered parts from other terrible movies like Underworld and Legion (with a little Beauty and the Beast thrown in) but I didn’t mind it as long as you’re able to leave your intelligence and standards at the door. Going in with the knowledge that the guy leading this movie is the same one who gave remarkably brilliant performances in films as varied as In the Company of Men and Rabbit Hole definitely puts a sting in, and it takes itself way too seriously for something with such a silly B-movie premise (a continuing habit with these stupid gothic action movies) but it’s almost like they made the first half hour so bad in order to make the remainder more tolerable.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no way to make the case for this being anything other than a bad movie, but I’m sure by the end of the year it won’t even be close to the bottom of the pack for me. And apparently Yvonne Strahovski is Australian, which is something new I learned from watching this. She also gets the only genuine laugh in the movie, although there are plenty of unintentional ones gained from the wretched dialogue (I chuckled every time Eckhart said the word gargoyle) and ridiculous premise. If only they had done this whole thing with a more tongue-in-cheek attitude and gone for a hard-R instead of the CGI-heavy PG-13 this could have been a lot more fun. As it stands, it’s nothing beyond a derivative clunker but its worst crime is really just that it’s generic and too serious. There’s a really poor attempt to give Frankenstein’s monster (given the name Adam here, as in the original text) an emotional arc and it comes off so flat, but hopefully the bombing of this one critically and financially will kick something into Eckhart to make him realize that he’s a very talented actor who needs to stop throwing his skills away with this low-rent nonsense. Four years is enough, let’s get back to real business.
I watched an interview with him recently that was done during the Olympus Has Fallen press tour where he talks about his dream being a movie where he can just get completely raw, exposing himself emotionally to the very core and not holding anything back. It’s a nice thought, but in the past four years there has been absolutely no sign of that so who knows what he’s talking about. I want to see that guy, not the star of Battle Los Angeles and Erased. Here’s hoping the recently announced Bleed for This can be the right step I’m dying for because he could be one of the best actors in the business if he stopped doing what he’s been doing. It was inevitable that this turned into another piece about how disheartened I am by the direction Eckhart’s career has gone in because there really isn’t much to say about I, Frankenstein. You shouldn’t ever watch it, but I honestly didn’t mind it for what it was. I’ll stick by Eckhart until the bitter end, hoping that one day my perseverance will pay off.
2013, Philipp Stolzl
With each new film, I continue to mourn the death of Aaron Eckhart’s career. After coming onto the scene strong with a brilliant performance in Neil LaBute’s In the Company of Men, he immediately began working in supporting roles for major directors like Oliver Stone, Steven Soderbergh and Sean Penn. Then the big studios seemed to get wind of this talented and very traditionally handsome man so they put in the gears to try and make him a star. That led to a string of flops, but he found his way again with a return to his indie roots, giving some tremendous work in films like Conversations with Other Women and Thank You for Smoking. For a while after that he did a decent job of balancing out his smaller pictures like Towelhead with more mainstream products such as The Dark Knight, giving consistently strong work no matter what the genre was.
Rabbit Hole was another major peak on this roller coaster career, but for some reason after that he took a sharp turn away from the character-driven pieces of the past and has been on this horrible run of one horrific movie after another. Battle Los Angeles was the start and 2013 sees him lob up two big misfires with a supporting role in Olympus Has Fallen and the leading part in Erased. With his only upcoming project being I, Frankenstein it doesn’t look like he’s going to be changing gears again any time soon and I honestly just don’t get it. He’s such a talented actor and has delivered more than a handful of performances that could easily put him up there with some of the best working today, but he continues to go back to these awful pictures that can’t look appealing on paper and are worse on screen. Whether it’s him, his agent or the studios, someone out there seems intent on trying to make him work as this mainstream leading star but his strong suit is in character work in smaller pictures. Him and Colin Farrell should start some sort of support group.
I’m spending this review talking about my frustration with Eckhart’s career, because when it comes to Erased there really isn’t that much to say. I’ve seen and enjoyed my fair share of generic action thrillers in my day, but Erased takes the word derivative to a whole new level. Primarily a ripoff of the Bourne series, Erased is nothing more than a factory-built amalgam of a myriad of disposable action films we’ve seen a thousand times before this and done much better. I didn’t hate watching this, but there’s absolutely nothing to do it that actually makes it worth spending 100 minutes of your life sitting through. Eckhart kind of tries and bless his heart for that, but you can look at his face and realize that he is just as clueless as everyone else as to why he keeps doing movies like this.