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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

I, Frankenstein

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Aaron Eckhart stars in a scene from the movie "I, Frankenstein."

Overblown but mostly harmless, the gothic actioner "I, Frankenstein" (Lionsgate) does little to offend but equally little to command audience interest. Tricked out with a surprising amount of Catholic imagery, it otherwise fails to make much of an impression.

Mary Shelley's classic novel provides only the premise—and, of course, the tormented main character, played by Aaron Eckhart—for this dark fantasy. The substance of the story, such as it is, comes from co-screenwriter Kevin Grevioux's graphic novel.

This source apparently endows Dr. Frankenstein's unholy creation not only with unwanted life but with unwelcome immortality as well. Accordingly, after some 18th-century exposition, and 200 years of self-imposed exile, he pops back up to do battle in the age of cellphones.

Here he once again gets mixed up in the fairly straightforward good-vs.-evil struggle at the heart of the post-Shelley mythos. As we know from the first glimpse of it we were given back in the era of powdered wigs, this contest pits an armed band of angels-turned-animated gargoyles, led by their queen, Leonore (Miranda Otto), against the hordes of hell under the earthly command of a well-tailored demon prince by the name of Naberius (Bill Nighy).

Though they stop short of explicitly acknowledging the primacy of the pope, the gargoyles—who can also take human shape—are unmistakably Catholic. They live in a cathedral, refer to their weapons, which must be blessed before being employed, as sacramentals and honor their fallen by hanging each departed angel's scapular on the wall.

They also claim to be taking their marching orders directly from St. Michael the Archangel, whose aid, in a moment of crisis, Queen Leonore can be heard invoking via the familiar prayer that was once recited at the end of every Low Mass. Another scene finds the same character assuring Frankenstein —who prefers to go by the name Adam—that "all life is sacred."

And all combat, in director and co-writer Stuart Beattie's adaptation of Grevioux's book, is gore-free: Defeated angels return to heaven in beams of light, while dispatched demons explode into, well, great balls of fire. So, despite some idle metaphysical speculation that might confuse the poorly catechized—does Adam have a soul or not?—and despite the elements listed below, "I, Frankenstein" is likely acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains constant but bloodless violence, brief images of a gory wound and a single crude term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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