There's nothing quite as wholly wretched as a tremendously dumb movie that fails to be such a violation of basic filmmaking competence for its stupidity to blossom into something fun to mock. Thus: I, Frankenstein, a movie that exactly lives up to the pedigree "from the producers" - and co-scenarist Kevin Grevioux, a fact not mentioned in the ads - of Underworld. That is to say, we have here yet another modern urban adaptation of one of the classic horror monsters, drenched in sparkling black and tech-white production design and cinematography, anchored by actors who seem hellbent on having the least fun possible with inherently ludicrous concepts. And Bill Nighy lording over everything as a scenery-chomping bad guy that you'd be inclined to call "campy" if there was even a little bit of flavor to his performance.

The hook (the "plot", we might call it, but I think that's being awfully generous) is that the stitched-together undead monster (Aaron Eckhart) created in the 1790s by Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Aden Young) did not merely enjoy superhuman strength and stamina, but was immortal to boot. And thus it is that it still lives all this time later - the film uses "200 years" a lot, and I get the convention of using round figures, but that's not quite the phrasing you'd use if you were talking about the gap between 1795 and 2014, so I'm not really sure when "now" is - having spent most of that time in the wilderness hiding from the demons that want to study it to use Frankenstein's reanimation technique for their own ends. Opposing the hellspawn are the soldiers of the Order of the Gargoyle, an army of apparently low-tier angels that live inside the stone statues on cathedrals. The gargoyle queen, Leonore (Miranda Otto), was the first to recognise the monster's right to live, giving it the name Adam and treating it with something vaguely like kindness; but even she would rather use him as a pawn in her fight against the demon prince Naberius (Nighy) than really deal with the consequences of his potential humanity.

That, in practice: Aaron Eckhart, with scars on his face and chiseled abdomen that represents a grotesque inhuman abomination according to no standards ever held in any culture on Earth, attacks people with big metal sticks, they blow up in lousy CGI plumes of flame. Sometimes there are many of them all at once, and he kills them quickly, in combos. Sometimes there is a level boss, and it takes him longer, with more elaborate but not really any more interesting choreography. Sometimes he snarls at and/or protects the exorbitantly wan biologist - the world's greatest electro-chemist, or something like that - Terra (Yvonne Strahovski), who is incongruously chipper and quick to adapt after being plunged into a draggletail fantasy world by a glowering stranger who is, we are assured, meant to be gross and hideous and not at all smoldering and sexy. Not that any of the four adjectives I just used actually apply to Eckhart's hilarious gruff performance, though since it's really just a waiting game until the film tries to force a romantic attachment between the two, director Stuart Beattie certainly seems to be aiming more for "smoldering", regardless of where he ends up landing.

Everything about I, Frankenstein is overdetermined and ridiculous in a manner that's more annoying than funny, beginning with its clumsy title (with the emphasis on glossy, sterile surfaces, I'd have preferred iFrankenstein), moving on to Eckhart's performance, and culminating in the overwhelmingly grim, grandly chintzy texture of both Ross Emery's drably shadowy cinematography and Michelle McGahey's production design, dominated as it is by the Order of the Gargoyle's command center, located in a stunningly massive Gothic cathedral that looks like Notre Dame de Paris went through a punk phase and came out with spikes jutting out of every possible surface. In these elements and others - the demons, looking awkwardly like Buffy the Vampire Slayer baddies, the villains' industrial-chic lair, the scar tissue that tends to augment Eckhart's abs rather than make him look like a perversion in God's eyes - the film indulges in a wide-ranging tackiness that actually makes it look cheaper than it is: from all the visual evidence, you'd guess it was one of those on-the-fly shot-in-Romania jobs, and not a largely Australia-based production. Certainly, nothing in the rinky-dink nondescript European settings nor the bargain-bin CGI implies any kind of level of care or investment in the production.

In comparison, the lousy screenplay is merely a distraction, not a significant flaw. Oh, there are plenty of problems that a first-year screenwriting student would be able to pick out - Leonore's wildly inconsistent motivation, the film's generally confused sense of how the gargoyles work in the first place, the blockheaded dialogue that involves Adam reciting essentially the same litany of thoughts in at least every other scene - but it's just bad. And bad horror/fantasy action films are easy to swallow, once you've seen enough of them. Beattie's screenplay, from Grevioux's comic book, is dysfunctional but only because it is lazy and hugely content to rework Underworld but with Frankenstein's monster this time. Underworld having been a bit of a slog to begin with, it's of course the case that I, Frankenstein ends up being a dull-minded, low-energy waste, but the screenplay still manages to be the best thing.

Between the design, the acting, and the pacing, the whole thing is a lugubrious bore, not daft enough to be fun, not wretched enough to be the kind of vigorously painful that bad movie masochists can still get a kick out of. It's ugly and miserable in the most generic way possible, amusing only in flashes, usually because of Eckhart's "kids roleplaying in the backyard" performance style. But mostly, it's just tedium, a routine January release without even enough creativity to be disgusting.

And in case you were wondering, the "Frankenstein must be destroyed" moment from the trailer? Re-edited dialogue, probably by a marketing consultant with a better sense of taste than the rest of the production combined. So there's not even dubious fan-service to make it worthwhile!