Category Archives: Movies

#TeamWeevil

Rob

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

“Eli ‘Weevil” Navarro. Ex-con. Somewhat reformed gangster, and the only man in Neptune who might just be smarter than Veronica Mars.”
fuckyeahweevilandveronica.tumblr.com, from which most of this media is taken.

Eli ‘Weevil” Navarro’s relationship with Veronica Mars was bumpy but they respected each other. Could it have been something more? Maybe not, but their relationship often goes unobserved. So maybe. From the horse’s mouth:
Continue reading #TeamWeevil

#TeamDuncan

Rob

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

Today kicks off Veronica Mars Week at SportsAlcohol.com. It was never our intention, but all of our feature weeks to date have been about little-seen genre films. It’s exciting to cover a movie we think will actually be good for once.

As fans of the show, we will post  a variety of thoughtful, well-written pieces throughout the week. There will also be multiple posts by yours truly on the topic of shipping. Marshmallows, as fans of Veronica Mars are known, have strong opinions about who Veronica should be involved with romantically. With the characters being revived for a movie, these debates have been renewed in full on the internet. Fans have taken to social media declaring themselves #TeamPiz or (more commonly) #TeamLogan in support of their favorite paramour for Veronica. They are even selling shirts.

Not Pictured: Teddy Dunn, who could use the work
Not Pictured: Teddy Dunn, who could use the work (Source: Instagram)

Absent from this debate almost entirely is Duncan Kane, Veronica’s first boyfriend. Being written out of the show in season two, there were no shirts for him (until the fans made some). This makes very little sense, as Duncan and Veronica are great together!

[From this point down, there will be a lot of SPOILERS. Consider yourself forewarned.]

Continue reading #TeamDuncan

The Fuzzy Math of Winter’s Tale

Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Warning: This post contains major spoilers about Winter’s Tale. Even more important warning: If the previous warning scared you, it means you might be considering watching Winter’s Tale. Having seen it, I say: maybe just don’t? 

So, I didn’t take my own advice. I saw Winter’s Tale on Valentine’s Day. To say it was full of nonsense about good and evil, angels and demons, and star-crossed lovers and terminal illnesses, would be to make it sound way more interesting than it is. The lesson: Always listen to SportsAlcohol.com.

It is fair to say, however, that it is full of nonsense. Vulture‘s article, “6 Ridiculous Things That Happen in Winter’s Tale,” doesn’t even really begin to cover it. Yet even in a movie filled with spiritual mumbo-jumbo, flying horses, hokey miracles, and Will Smith doing a cameo as a devil in a Hendrix t-shirt, one thing—which I haven’t seen discussed too many other places—struck me as more preposterous than the rest: its willful misunderstanding of how time works (at least how it is perceived by humans, setting aside any flat circles for now).

With respect to Pushing Daisies (RIP, Pushing Daisies), the facts are these:

  • Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is born in 1886.
  • Most of the movie takes place in the “past,” in 1916, when Peter is 30 years old. It’s during this time that he meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), his true love 4eva.
  • There is time skip, and Peter wakes up in? is transported to? miracles??? finds himself in the “present day.” I haven’t read the novel, but I assume the “present day” of the novel is 1983, when the book came out, meaning the skip is 67 years. The “present day” of the movie is this present day, meaning 2014, or a skip of 98 years.
  • The movie treats the ensuing years, between 1983 and 2014, like they just don’t exist.

It doesn’t seem like there should be any contradictions. Dude is in the past, then he’s in the present after an absurd amount of time, meaning everything and everyone he knows should be gone and not cause any problems. But there’s so much magic in Winter’s Tale that it ties itself into knots creating time-travel problems.

In the movie, Beverly has a younger sister, Willa (Makayla Twiggs). They don’t say how old she is, but she looks about 7 or 8 to me. She’s certainly not an infant. Of course, since life is beautiful, after the time-skip, Peter is somehow reunited with Willa, who in the interim became the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper.

Let’s do the math here. It certainly seems possible if we’re using the book timeline (if, in fact, Willa is a character in the book). Willa would be 7 in 1916, making her 74 in 1983. It’s unusual, but not impossible, for a 74-year-old woman to be a spry editor-in-chief of a newspaper.

But that’s not the timeline in the film. According to the movie , Willa would be 105 years old. She’d be one of the oldest people on the planet. Yet with all of the dwelling on all of the awe-inspiring things in the film, not one person seems amazed that the world’s oldest woman is running a daily paper in New York City. No one addresses it at all, really. (The actress playing Old Willa is Eva Marie Saint, who’s actually 89 and doesn’t look like 105—though it’s hard to tell what 105 looks like since so few people make it that far, let alone people growing up in the 1900s with consumptive sisters.)

You can say it’s an aberration and explain Willa’s existence away with miracles!!! fuzzy math, but she’s not the only one who doesn’t realize what year it is.  Peter finds Willa through a newspaper reporter, Virginia (Jennifer Connelly). Viriginia looks up some old articles on microfiche to figure out who Peter Lake is and where he comes from. She quickly finds a photo of Peter and Beverly in front of the Penn’s lovely Hudson Valley estate. Her jaw drops in amazement and she asks: “Is that your father?”

Father?! If I were Peter, I’d be incredibly offended. It’s a good thing Virginia is a food reporter and doesn’t cover economics or anything that has to do with numbers. I don’t know how she thought that someone who looked like he was 30 in 1916 could sire someone who looks like he’s 30 in 2014. Perhaps she thought Peter Senior sired Peter Junior when he was 98?

I know it’s a little silly to look at the flying horse and look at the time-travel timeline and say that the horse is believable but the time-travel timeline is beyond the pale, but details are important. Especially if you want people to lose themselves in your love story, and not just snicker at it.

 

 

 

The State of the Modern Vampire

Maggie

Maggie is a for-real writer. We're kind of surprised that she would lend her name and her words to SportsAlcohol.com, but we're certainly not complaining. Her first novel, The Cost of All Things, can be ordered here.
Maggie

Latest posts by Maggie (see all)

Bona fides

By day, I am an editor of young adult fiction. I have read all the Twilight books (including the unreleased 100-page version of book one from Edward’s perspective), seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and attended a midnight singalong of “Once More With Feeling”), and I am straight-up OBSESSED with The Vampire Diaries and how BADASS AND AWESOME it is. I have read what feels like thousands of paranormal unpublished and published books. I have a working familiarity with all popular vampire lit, in that, if pressed, I could plausibly fake having read/seen them at a cocktail party. (Super cool cocktail party, bro.)

Caveats

I have not read the Vampire Academy books or seen any of True Blood. I was never in to Anne Rice.

Context

Let’s throw out some dates: Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran from 1997-2003. The first Twilight novel was published in 2005. True Blood and the first Twilight movie premiered in 2008; The Vampire Diaries premiered in 2009 (based on a novel published in the early 1990s). Anne Rice wrote about Lestat for decades before any of this—starting in 1976. Count Von Count has been enumerating since 1972. Bela Lugosi did this shtick for a long, long time. And of course Bram Stoker was on the cutting edge of the repurposing-folktales trend with Dracula (1897).

949472-buffyangel1
So young!

Vampire Academy the book series became popular on the heels of Twilight—the first Vampire Academy book came out in 2007—but it’s more a descendent of Buffy than Bella. (Which from a publishing perspective makes sense. Books take a long time to write. It’s extremely unlikely Richelle Mead had read Twilight when she wrote her book.) Unlike Bella, Rose kicks ass and is sarcastic as a Guardian—a role similar to Giles’s Watcher. Unlike in Twilight, romantic complications are secondary to a mystery plot. These vampires are “different,” like Twilight vampires, but each vampire story must distinguish itself from the previous ones in some way, and the time was right for more vampires of any stripe.

In tracing the popularity of the books, it doesn’t hurt to add in a dash of being sent to “special school,” a la Harry Potter—but it’s also, I will self-righteously note in a futile attempt to get everyone to stop comparing everything to Harry Potter, one of the foundational tropes of children’s literature forever and ever, from What Katy Did to A Wizard of Earthsea to Sideways Stories from Wayside School and beyond.

So that’s the world that brought us these books. The zenith of vampire hype. Readers were desperate for more, publishers scrambled to fill the demand (see the resurgence of The Vampire Diaries, a 20+ years old series), and a great rush of books filled the void. The world into which this movie was released is very different than the 2007-2010 vampire heyday. We’re inundated with them (see first paragraph). Twilight is over, and we’re looking for the next Hunger Games instead (see future SportsAlcohol.com post on Divergent). Vampire Academy feels out of its time from the get-go, from its straight-up title to the slightly-but-not-quite parodic tone.

Secrecy

Part of the fun of the classic vampire story is the process of learning that vampires are, in fact, real. There’s a period of creepy suspicion, where things might be normal-ish, and then the fangs come out. That’s 80% of the first Twilight book. It takes Elena around six episodes to piece things together on The Vampire Diaries (and it is so satisfying to see her ask sensible questions and not allow Stefan to get away with half-answers). It’s the thrill of arriving in that creepy old house and wondering what secrets your host is hiding.

Once the information is out, the story automatically becomes much more complicated. Are there other vampires? How do you become a vampire? Are vampires people, or are they some sort of other? Do they have a conscience/soul? Why doesn’t everyone know about them? Do they have enemies? (Often the natural enemy of the vampire is the werewolf [Twilight, TVD]. Which can lead to things like Underworld making a tiny amount of sense. Note: There’s no such longstanding tradition of gargoyle/Frankenstein conflict.) How do you kill them? Sparkle in the sun: y/n?

For the most part Vampire Academy dispenses with the thrills part of this formula and starts answering the questions, thus leading to Jesse’s complaint that the movie is all mythology. But I see this less as a complaint with the actual movie but a problem with the medium of this particular vampire story. After a while, things get complex in every story, if the story’s going to remain interesting, and books and TV shows have a lot more time to develop their rules and backstories than movies do. The Vampire Diaries has one of the most dense and complicated backstories I’ve ever experienced. (For example, here is how you become a vampire: 1) ingest vampire blood, 2) die, 3) re-animate, 4) grapple with your life choices and bloodlust, and 5) ingest human blood. The process can take days and there are multiple opportunities for interruption. Narratively, it’s a goldmine.) AND YET all this mythology is also amazing and flawless in every way. They can afford to feed us the mythology a morsel at a time. A movie doesn’t have that luxury, so it’s straight to spelling things out in voiceover and on-screen text.

the-vampire-diaries
Flawless

In most of the vampire stories I’ve mentioned, the vampires have some interaction with the outside world. That’s where the primary tension comes from: Who knows/who doesn’t, who’s hiding/who’s hot on their trail, which innocent people are likely to be slaughtered if our heroes don’t get their acts in gear. Vampire Academy, with the exception of one scene in a mall, does not feature with normal people at all. This means that the story has to rely on the mythology and the politics of the world for tension.

Granted, stories like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries and Buffy eventually, somewhat inevitably due to the murderous nature of vampires and the danger of their worlds, dispense with “normals” and become just as internally-focused as Vampire Academy. Twilight is taken over by the Volturi. The whole world fills with Slayers. There’s like one normal human being left in The Vampire Diaries and even he’s been possessed occasionally. But again, that’s a more understandable place to end up when we’ve seen hundreds of hours or read hundreds of pages about these people.

The Soul

What makes a person “good”? This is an essential question of most vampire stories. Vampires must drink blood to survive, and certainly, cutting people open tends to lead to their demise. But it doesn’t have to. There are plenty of ways to feed without becoming a killer: stealing from blood banks (questionably moral, but not intentionally murderous), animal blood, synthetic blood, and just taking a sip.

For most vampires, though, it’s not that simple. The state of being a vampire and needing blood to survive is often physiologically (and metaphysically) different than you or I saying “I’m hungry and would like a sandwich.” I’m talking about bloodlust, the extreme desire for human blood. Deeper than a craving, and uncontrollable, and definitely sexual. Moroi in Vampire Academy don’t appear to have bloodlust, but Strogoi definitely do. And Strogoi, not coincidentally, seem to have been stripped of their soul.

rose-lissa-vampire-academy-st-vladimirs
Kitty!

The soul! The thing that makes us “human” and “not murder-y.” In The Vampire Diaries, the cleverest show that ever was, vampires can choose to switch on and off their “humanity.” If they switch it off they do not give a fuck and will murder you where you stand, and it takes a ton of convincing to get them to turn it back on again. In Buffy, vampires (with two exceptions) don’t have souls at all, so it’s usually okay to dust them.

In Twilight, the lines aren’t as rigidly drawn. Vampires who drink human blood tend to be more soulless and cruel than those who only drink animal blood, but the red-eyed ones still have a full range of emotions, and they’re able to decide not to murder whenever they want. And even the animal-blood “vegetarians” are totally ruled by bloodlust—they’re doing their best to repress their desires, but they can’t change who they are.

It’s not just the vamps that enjoy bloodlust. I don’t know what the word is that would be equivalent to bloodlust, but there’s something definitely… enjoyable… for humans getting their blood sucked. They never cry, they never seem to be in pain. They seem quite content (wink wink). Vampire Academy uses this idea to talk about slut-shaming—a good dhampir would never ever let a moroi feed off her. Though Lissa saying the words “slut-shaming” in a public speech makes this subtext way too obvious, it’s a pretty interesting idea–how do we get these ideas of morality and purity? Do they make any sense?

(As a [long] side note, romance with a vampire is pretty much always disturbing when you consider how young a human is compared to a vamp, and Edward’s constant bloodlust makes Twilight’s romance even more chilling. At least in Buffy, Angel isn’t seconds away from ripping Buffy’s head off. Without bloodlust, the non-blood-drinking 24 year old falling in love with the 17 year old in Vampire Academy seems positively tame, though it gave me an icky feeling at the time.

It’s become a cliché to pile on vampire stories for their icky age issues, and that’s all true, but I think it’s important to be able to define why it is that people enjoy watching vampires and humans fall in love in the first place. It’s not simply some weird obsession that only silly teen girls fall for, and to pretend that there aren’t real and interesting reasons for the popularity of these stories is to discount something potentially interesting about why we keep reading and watching these stories:

1) The vampire must change his life for her and go against his nature to be with her
2) The vampire has known hundreds of women over hundreds of years and this one is special
3) The vampire is mysterious (see section on Secrets)
4) The vampire is very handsome

twilight3lg
Kiss or murder?

Look at that: Vampire Academy has none of this!)

The obsession with the soul and what it means to not have one shows up in a lot more than vampire fiction. Why else are there so many TV shows about serial killers? As a society—maybe as a species—we’re deeply afraid of a creature as smart as us (or more so), as attractive as us (or more so), but who have no conscience, and who really, really want to see us dead. Because you can’t tell by looking at someone if they’re evil. And that’s true of everyone, not just vampires.

At least in Vampire Academy, everyone’s role is very clearly designated. It’s comforting to be able to assign rules to psychopathy, and to be able to identify and fight psychopaths with your personal guardian (or slayer or witch or werewolf). That might be the true appeal of vampire stories, beyond the sexy sparkliness of it all: They give evil a reason for being, they invent backstory to understand cruelty and loss, and they tell us how to fight it.

I was going to write an “In Conclusion” header but I have no conclusions, just more random thoughts, and this is a million times tl;dr, so I’ve got to stop now.

Recommended Reading

For unusual takes on sex/death, bloodlust, love, psychopaths, rules, and more.

Holly Black, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Robin McKinley, Sunshine

Scott Westerfeld, Peeps

A. M. Jenkins, Night Road

Chvrches Is Right

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

Vampire Academy (2014) ends with a cover of Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Scottish pop trio Chvrches (reportedly enraging SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Sabrina Lauzon).

Arguments over the recording’s merits aside, the song’s central message remains as true today as it was on the day it was written. Bela Lugosi is indeed dead. Continue reading Chvrches Is Right

What Do Teenage Vampires Watch on TV? CW Shows About Teenage Vampires?

Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Creating an imaginary world is a tough gig. I’m pretty sure that’s why, when it’s done perfectly, that world becomes a beloved classic. But there are so, so many places where it could all go wrong.

We’ve already covered what happens when the mythology is too complex. (In short: It sucks.) But there’s another place where I often get tripped up as a reader or viewer, and that’s the intersection of the imaginary world and the real one.

Continue reading What Do Teenage Vampires Watch on TV? CW Shows About Teenage Vampires?

Vampire Academy Is in Session

Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

And the folks here at SportsAlcohol.com are team-teaching for the rest of the week, before the long Vampire Weekend. Keep an eye out up top for our full coverage. Your schedule:

First Period: Major Cultural Event: Vampire Academy (2014) 

Second Period: What Do Teenage Vampires Watch on TV? CW Series About Teenage Vampires?

Third Period: Chvrches Is Right

Fourth Period: The State of the Modern Vampire

Major Cultural Event: Vampire Academy (2014)

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Before I talk about Vampire Academy, let me get some stuff out of the way:

Vampire Academy is about an academy for vampires so obviously during the movie you wonder if Vampire Academy has rival schools that play them in sports and stuff, and think of additional schools such as:

Mummy College

International School of Werewolf Studies

Frankenstein Country Day

The Gill-Man Institute of Technology

The Mortal Instruments: Campus of Bones

Unicorniversity

But apart from that train of thought, I went into Vampire Academy ready and willing to take it as seriously as I needed to take it. Most of the movie, as it turns out, is an exploration of how seriously you should be taking Vampire Academy and, by extension, the life you’ve lead that resulted in you sitting in a movie theater on a Monday night watching Vampire Academy.

The presence of who are now billed, apparently, as the Waters Brothers, suggests that one should take the movie itself seriously (because a team-up of the guy who wrote Heathers and his brother who directed Mean Girls seems so natural that it also seems like some kind of a trick) while allowing the movie itself to not take it too seriously (because Heathers and Mean Girls are both very funny movies that puncture high school melodrama with non-vampire fangs). Daniel Waters and Mark Waters are ideally equipped to make a movie that casually and charmingly tear down the romantic dopiness of the Twilight series and replace it with snappier expressions of adolescent angst.

If they ever go back and make a movie about smart-mouthed vampire teenagers at a boarding school, I still think that could happen.

But Vampire Academy is not so much a movie about smart-mouthed vampire teenagers at a boarding school as it is a budget would-be franchise-starter based on a series of popular YA novels. So yes, some of the vampires are smart-mouthed and some of them are teenagers and there is a boarding school involved, but those easily understandable descriptions are too meager for the complex, multi-generational, heavily detailed and completely fucking pointless mythology that this movie is built around.

Here is a little tip for screenwriters and YA writers and pretty much anyone putting pen to paper about teenagers and magic, years too late to save Beautiful Creatures or The Mortal Instruments or any other movie I’ve seen in the past year-plus that chokes on mythology and then turns blue and purple on screen as the mythology stays lodged the throat of its corpse:

Mythology is not cinematic.

It sounds cinematic, I know! Mythology! Maybe you picture Greek Gods or centaurs or minotaurs or Middle Earth when you hear the word! But mythology is not just the fun of centaurs and/or minotaurs. Mythology, if it is made into a crucial component of your movie, is actually just a form of exposition, or at least requires a fair amount of it. And exposition is usually non-visual information. And movies, at least in theory, are a visual medium. So while mythology may make your movie sound grand and epic, it may actually weigh your movie down with information about something that is so clearly made up that no one really needs additional information about it.

Of course, as with mythology, there are ways to cleverly work exposition into your movie. I to this day cannot believe that people have a problem with Ellen Page’s character in Inception, supposedly because she exists to have the rules of the Inceptionverse explained to her and to ask questions on behalf of the audience. But the thing is, Ellen Page’s character asks way smarter questions than I would ask about this stuff, and is also a character with thoughts and opinions, and who moves the story along quite handily. She is the proverbial new kid being shown around the cafeteria on the first day of school. Hey! Speaking of that: Mean Girls! Mark Waters directed a movie that used voiceover, exposition, and a high school version of mythology (more like anthro, I guess, but still) very, very well.

Vampire Academy goes as far as to actually tee up a cafeteria-intro scene and call attention to it, and then, I guess because Daniel Waters imagines he is poking at convention here, then doesn’t actually have that scene where we meet a bunch of Vampire Academy students, organized by lunch table. I guess he thought that would be too cliché, or beside the point, or maybe there is so much goddamned mythology in this movie that there is no room for anything else that takes up more than half a minute. It engages in a lot of “world-building” while ignoring just how much world-building the title has already done: it’s a school for vampires! Got it! Done! But this movie would rather explain the hierarchal process by which Vampire Academy administration happens to be formed than, you know, have anything to do with vampires going to boarding school.

Here’s what I was able to glean: there are three types of vampires at and around this academy, except one kind aren’t really vampires. There are the bad vampires, who are presumably not welcome to matriculate, who want to kill the pretty good royal vampires (who don’t kill humans, at least as far as we can see), and the non-vampires who protect said royal vampires. This movie is about Rose (Zoey Deutch), a non-vampire protector who has bonded with pretty good vampire Lissa (Lucy Fry). So a semi-reverse-slayer, basically. Rose can sometimes see what Lissa sees, a power that allows her to both better protect her and absorb even more exposition, in part concerning a mystery about who is trying to intimidate and/or kill Lissa and/or Rose. There are also, by my rough estimate, forty to fifty boys in the movie, subject of various crushes and entanglements that the movie finds far less interesting than the (again, by my rough estimate) one thousand different types of royal vampire families who blah blah blah blah arrrrgggghhhh. There’s one who looks like a lil’ Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, one who got my attention by also being named Jesse (SUCH a hot name right now), and then Rose naturally, by which I mean creepily, falls for the one who’s actually an adult man. In general, the I-hate-high-school backstabbing and gossiping and hooking up feels like an afterthought as Important Mythology Characters jostle for screentime with characters who might actually be funny or affecting. The gossip in Vampire Academy conceals itself within the elaborate mythology, which could be a sly joke if the delivery was remotely interesting.

Vampire Academy 2

The most disappointing thing about Vampire Academy (the movie, not the higher-ed institution) is that Zoey Deutch, who I’d never really heard of before, is quite good in it. She’s the one who displays the most frequent signs of Daniel Waters wiseassery; at least fifty percent, if not closer to seventy percent, of her wisecracks don’t really land, but they come a lot closer to landing than they should because there’s something appealingly brusque and no-nonsense about Deutch’s delivery. I may have mentioned Ellen Page earlier because Deutch has a similar fast-talking vibe, and she looks like Page crossed with Rose Byrne. Her performance and character in this particular mythology-flooded enterprise left me with the odd sensation of thinking, boy, I’d like to watch a whole movie about her instead — during a movie where she is, in fact, the main character.

So Vampire Academy isn’t painful to watch, mainly because of Deutch and the stray good lines Daniel Waters feeds her and a lucky few. But it plays uncomfortably like a pilot for a show that gets better seven or eight episodes in, shortly before its cancellation. It also gives the distinct impression that I could read Vampire Academy books all day every day and still not learn a goddamned thing about Vampire Math, Vampire Art, or Vampire Biology. I guess it’s off to Vampire Summer School for me. In related news, be sure to check out SportsAlcohol.com Presents: Vampire Summer School, coming to an e-reader just as soon as we can make up a bunch of stupid backstory.

I, Jealous: I, Frankenstein Is a Headline-Writer’s Dream

Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Look, I know we should be moving on from all this I, Frankenstein  nonsense—the world seems to have moved on, barely having noticed it—but none of my SportsAlcohol.com colleagues have hit upon the best thing about the movie: the headline potential.

I work in media, and sometimes it falls upon me to write headlines. I find it to be one of the hardest parts of what I do, especially since I work in print where we still (try to) use clever puns instead of Google AdWord-researched, plain-and-to-the-point keywords in our headlines. If an I, Frankenstein article came across my desk and I had to write display copy for it, I’d be giddy. There’s just so much material there.

Alas, I was not one of the privileged few who got to write an I, Frankenstein headline—hey, until now!—but here are some of the lucky ones who did, and nailed it.

There were those who used the awkward “me Tarzan, you Jane”-sounding title to their advantage.

01Title - Vulture

Vulture

02Title - MovieNation

Movie Nation

There were those who called the movie out for how monstrously bad it is.

03Monster - OnMilwaukee

On Milwaukee

There were those who pointed out its utter lack of a pulse.

04Corpse - PhillyCom

Philly.com

05Corpse - Variety

Variety

And, finally, the ones that reference other, better Franks.

06Reference - PhoenixNewTimes

Phoenix New Times

07Reference - StLouisPostDispatch

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

I bow to these writers and their headline-writing superiority. Next to them, when it comes to writing I, Frankenstein headlines: I, suck.

I, Frankenstein: A Meditation

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

Latest posts by Nathaniel (see all)

All right, now that we’ve all seen I, Frankenstein (and read Jesse’s review) here’s a place for us to talk about it without spoiling all its twists and turns (there aren’t any) for those who haven’t seen it yet (everybody).  And anyway, I’m not here to savage the movie.  I spent the last couple of months grumbling at anybody who’d listen about what gargoyles and demons had to do with the Frankenstein story, so it’s only fair that I consider the answers the filmmakers offered.

I, Frankenstein as Adaptation:
IFrankensteinIt turns out that this epic story of the struggle between gargoyles and demons for the fate of humanity revolves around the character of Frankenstein’s Monster, a central figure in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein.  In addition to his origin in this seminal science fiction novel, the creature has a long and varied cinematic history.  Even before the iconic Universal version of the story, Thomas Edison adapted the story for film.  Over the years there have been so many additions to and variations on the Frankenstein mythology that a story like I, Frankenstein ends up being a grab-bag of elements from many different Frankensteins.

I, Frankenstein‘s creature is a soulless (or is he?) creature assembled by Dr. Victor Frankenstein from parts of exhumed corpses and reanimated by the application of electricity, obtained from a tank of electric eels.  Dumped in a river by his creator, the creature returns to murder the doctor’s wife and then flees to the arctic.  Frankenstein pursues his creation, dies of exposure, and is brought back by the creature to be buried in his family’s graveyard.  After a skirmish with some demons, the creature meets the gargoyle queen and is named Adam.

Interlude On the Subject of The Creature’s Name:
In the novel, Frankenstein does not give the creature a name.  This is tied up in his rejection of his creation, and he alternately refers to it as a “fiend,” a “wretch,” and a “monster.”  In the absence of a given name, audiences generally resort to one of two other options.  The most popular is obviously to just refer to the creature as Frankenstein.  This most likely solidified in the public consciousness in the 1930s, with the popularity of the Universal film adaptation and an advertising campaign that was primarily just the title and the image of Jack Pierce’s design for the creature.  The film so successfully colonized the public’s imagination that even now, 83 years later, if you ask somebody who Frankenstein is you’re very likely to get a description of the monster with the flat top and neck bolts (drawing the pedantic ire of nerds like us everywhere).  The second most common name for the creature is Adam.  Mary Shelley is said to have referred to the creature by this name in early drafts/tellings of the story and in letters to friends.  For his own part, after reading Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (Shelley’s creature is highly intelligent and eloquent), the creature tells Frankenstein that he saw himself in the story of creation, though he identified most with Satan, saying “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel.”  Pop culture examples of this usage include Dark Shadows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I, Frankenstein.

I confess, it’s a little hard to know just how self-aware the filmmakers were in creating their version of the story.  Their use of Adam for his name suggests some nerdish faux-fidelity, and they included the flight to the arctic from the novel.  But did they also know that when they had their doctor use electric eels in his creation process that they weren’t adapting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein but Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?  This creature’s design incorporates the long hair from the book (at least it does for the beginning of the movie set in the 1700s), but understandably forgoes the yellow corpse pallor and blackened lips.  He’s also an Eckhartian six-foot-something instead of an eight foot tall giant.  Now, in fairness, Dr. Frankenstein’s ambition was to create a being possessing physical beauty in proportion to his other attributes, so I guess in this movie we are to assume he succeeded (some patchwork scarring notwithstanding).  In any case, I assume that even Mary Shelley would have approved of this Dr. Frankenstein’s ab selection.

Abenstein's AbsterBut, beyond the details of their presentation of the creature, I’m interested in trying to suss out the weird way this movie interacts with some of the themes of the original story (this may get tricky, since the movie doesn’t really make much sense).

The novel tells the story of a creator who abandons his creation, appalled by what he’d wrought (as I mentioned the creature draws explicit parallels between himself and Satan in “Paradise Lost”).  The creature is lost and angry because of this abandonment and lashes out at his creator, demanding that the doctor build him a companion.  The story ends with the creator dead and his creation heading off to destroy himself in despair.  In the universe of I, Frankenstein, God is very real and his emissaries on earth take the form of a dwindling band of gargoyles.  Their mission is to combat demons disguised as human, and these demons are specifically interested in Adam because he doesn’t have a soul.  Now, by tackling this stuff head-on, I’d say that they are making a bid to be the True Spiritual Sequel to Mary Shelley’s novel.  Let’s see how they did.

Adam spends the entire movie violently opposed to the demons (I guess because they tried to kidnap him at a particularly low emotional moment) and vaguely on the side of the gargoyles (he doesn’t seem to have much use for them, and they SUCCESSFULLY kidnap him more than once, but shortly after one of the main gargoyles tries to kill him he snarls something to the demons about how the gargoyle order MUST be preserved).  So, accepting that Adam is supposed to be the novel’s Frankenstein’s monster, that means that we end the film with the creature having shifted identification from Milton’s Satan to Adam.  Indeed, after killing countless demons, his final Batman monologue is all about how he’s going to take on the gargoyles’ mission from God and protect the rest of humanity.

To Kill a Gargoyle, or Aesthetic Innovation in I, Frankenstein:
I’d like to take a moment to praise I, Frankenstein for what I think is its greatest contribution to the “Boring PG-13 Action Movie That Travesties Classic Monsters” genre.  I’m talking, of course, about the movie’s twist on the way that these kinds of movies have their monsters burst into sparks and ashes when they are killed.  Presumably taking their cues from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had to make the deaths of their villains palatable for a television audience, the go-to move here is to have your dying monster burn or dissolve into ash.  I, Frankenstein’s leap forward in this arena is that after the demons or gargoyles burst apart, their souls take the form of fire (for the demons) or a beam of light (for the gargoyles).  These souls burst out, rush all around the room AND THEN DESCEND TO HELL OR ASCEND TO HEAVEN.  That’s right, in addition to watching a demon flake apart & scatter, you get to watch his soul burn a hole in the ground as it is taken to Hell.  This means that during the big group battles you can get some sense of how things are going by estimating the fireball/lightbeam ratio.  The effect also seems readymade for the I, Frankenstein stunt spectacular at Universal Studios Nowhere.

The movie’s depiction of Adam’s emotional journey is a little hard to follow because Eckhart spends the entire movie frowning and running in circles no matter what’s going on around him, but I think we can figure this out.  After we’ve flashed foward a couple of hundred years and picked up with Adam frowning and killing demons and running in circles in what is presumably a modern, if dystopian, world, the gargoyle queen yells at him for letting a police officer get killed by a demon during a fight.  Adam dismisses her concern over the dead man, and we are seemingly meant to take this as evidence that he lacks any connection to mankind and his war against the demons is motivated more abstractly because they tried to kidnap him before the gargoyles successfully kidnapped him.  At the end of the movie, he is willing to sacrifice himself to save man- and gargoylekind alike, presumably because he became friends with Yvonne Strahovski.  In exchange for his self-sacrifice, he is rescued from falling down into Hell by the gargoyle queen.  So in this reading, he has gone from feeling like Milton’s Satan, rejected and cast down by his creator, to feeling like Adam, a being created with a purpose and protected by God.  Which, incidentally makes it weirder to me that in his final superhero monologue he doesn’t say anything about the name Adam (which was given to him by the gargoyle queen, and would seem to align him with humanity) and instead concludes by him calling himself Frankenstein (I guess so they could call the movie I, Frankenstein).  As for the meaning of that title, your guess is as good as mine.

Scenarios That Would Have Made The Title Appropriate:

  • Taking Up The Family Business
    As the movie proceeded, I actually began to expect this one to happen.  Of course it did not.  In this scenario, Yvonne Strahovski’s character, Terra(!), would have died during the raid on the demon science compound.  After all of the demon business was resolved, Adam would have used the secrets of Dr. Frankenstein’s journal to reanimate her, forgiving his “father” for his own creation and taking the name Frankenstein himself.
  • What Goes Around Comes Around
    In this scenario, Adam has a son sometime during the course of the movie.  He abandons the kid at the end of the movie (either out of heroic “for its own good” sacrifice or because the kid is repulsive) and realizes, filled with emo self-loathing, that he’s become just like Frankenstein.
  • The Reading of the Will
    In this scenario, the movie is less about demons vs. angels, and more a legal drama about the court proceedings over the disposition of Dr. Frankenstein’s estate (naturally there is a stipulation that the heir must spend the night in Frankenstein’s castle).  In the end, the creature has to claim his creator’s name in order to be named his heir.
  • I, Frankenstein…
    In this scenario, the movie is more of a biopic, in a semi-anthology or chapter segmented format.

Prologue – “I, Frankenstein”

This is the brief recap of his creation, the death of Dr. Frankenstein, and the creature’s assumption of the name.

Chapter 1 – “I, Frankenstein, take this woman to be my lawfully wedded wife..”

This is the story of how he built and then courted his wife.

Chapter 2 – “I, Frankenstein, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States…”

In this one, he brokers the peace between the demons and gargoyles while fending off political attacks from birthers.

Chapter 3 – “I, Frankenstein, being of sound mind and body, declare this my Last Will and Testament…”

This one has him writing his will on the morning of his retirement party.

Conclusion:
Don’t go see I, Frankenstein.