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I, Frankenstein

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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog I discovered that my sins had created a spiritual racket that drowned out the gentle whispers of God to my soul; God had never actually abandoned me, but I needed repentance and sacramental grace to reawaken all that was good and beautiful in me.

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