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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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