Pietro's Movie Review: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
Published: June 22, 2012 - 5:55pm
Being a fan of the novel this film is based on, it pains me to say it is not only a bad adaptation but a bad film in and of itself. The only redeeming qualities it had for me are the at times beautiful cinematography and fantastic score, which when compiled with horrendous dialogue, a paper thin story and badly choreographed/rendered CG action sequences made this film painful to sit through.
I don't always need to be intellectually challenged to enjoy a film, more so those which are action-oriented and fantastical in nature. I actually look forward to the occasional Transformers and Sharktopus movies I can sit back and relax with. But that doesn't mean I want experience a bad movie, especially if it asks me to suspend my disbelief to the point of delirium. It truly pains me to say that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is one of the worst films I've sat through this year. My trepidation about this project came from wondering if the cast -- one compiled with some heavy handed talent such as Dominic Cooper, Marton Csokas and Rufus Sewell and theatrical wonder Benjamin Walker -- would have enough room for them to make their characters engaging, if the director would fully embrace the absurdity of the project and whether the changing of major elements of the book, including adding a central villain solely for film use, would hinder the already bloated story. In the end, though, those worries (which all came true) hardly factored into my lack of enjoyment of the film as it came down to one failure above all: storytelling. This film did not tell a good story.
Early in the film we learn that young "Abe" (the name they call him throughout the film, which doesn't feel right at all) Lincoln loses his mother to a mysterious illness caused from a bite mark she received in her sleep by his father's most recent employer. Years later, when he's a young man, he tries to avenge her death by shooting the man he saw bite her; only to find out the man is a vampire. After taking the first of a series of massive beatings, young Abe gets taken under the wing of Henry Sturgess. It's plain to see Sturgess is a vampire but Lincoln doesn't seem to notice even though they spend the next few months training in martial arts-styled ax fighting akin to the "bullet curving" seen in director Timur Bekmambetov's other American action film Wanted. Now equipped with deadly skills like chopping trees down with a single swing and spinning his ax with the efficiency of a baton twirler, the future President begins eliminating vampire targets for Sturgess while continuing to hold a grudge against the one who killed his mother. But the broader picture being painted shows that vampires are actually behind the slave trade and Lincoln, years later after trading in his vampire hunting duties for a wife and career in politics, helps to spark the Civil War in an effort to rid America from the undead creatures.
For all intents and purposes the story is fairly accurate from a historical standpoint (the vampire elements notwithstanding) and we do follow Lincoln throughout the basic outline of his life as he had actually lived it. But what the film manages to maintain out of some sense of historical pride it loses in it's poor editing, vapid characters and sub-par effects. The most obvious misstep in the screenplay is the dialogue, which constantly teeters between nonsensical and cringe-worthy. The actors put on period-esque accents spotlighted with overdone Southern drawls or an accidental modern American twang and it makes the story painful to watch unfold. This isn't where the problems end, as the CG effects -- particularly in an action scene involving ex fighting on top of a horse stampede, and uneven pacing are constant reminders that this film cannot be taken seriously even by Roger Corman standards. These problems fall squarely on the director's shoulders, but the screenplay's failure can only be blamed on Seth Grahame-Smith -- who also wrote the very entertaining book this film was adapted from and the not so entertainment screenplay for Tim Burton's Dark Shadows.
I will say that the score, courtesy of X-Men: First Class and Puss in Boots composer Henry Jackman is good almost to a fault as many of his songs outshines the scenes they play against. Another quite wonderful aspect was the combination sweeping cinematography and crisp 3D thanks to Director of Photography Caleb Deschanel. The visuals worked quite elegantly when director Bekmambetov wasn't throwing things directly at the screen in true gimmicky 3D glory. I honestly don't know who I would recommend this film for as there are undoubtedly many movie goers who will enjoy it, I just happen to be one of those who did not. The best way I can draw a comparison is by saying it has the visceral feel of Wanted mixed with the awkward character interactions of Twilight. If you chose to give it a chance, be sure to see it in 3D for the full visceral experience and go in looking for the simple satisfaction that comes with over-the-top summer action romps.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a re-imagining of the 16th President's life that depicts him as an axe-throwing, highly accomplished killer of vampires -- an obsession of his since those bloodsuckers supposedly took the life of his mother. Lincoln eventually learns that the vampires have fled to the southern states of the U.S. and are concocting a plan to conquer and enslave the entire country -- this in turn leads to the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy, the latter of which the vampires are aligned with.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is being directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) in 3D. Stage and screen actor Benjamin Walker will portray the title character alongside Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Robin McLeavy and Alan Tudyk. The film is scheduled for 3D theatrical release on June 22nd, 2012.