BlueReview: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunteron June 28, 2012 at 7:05 am
Seven score and twelve years ago, our nation elected an odd but brilliant man to be our president and he in turn lead the effort to save the United States of America.
But maybe that’s not all Abraham Lincoln did. Maybe… just maybe… he slaughtered an army of vampires too. That’s right, Honest Abe kicked butt with a hatchet and a craving for vengeance that eventually lead to the Civil War. Sure, it might sound like a far-fetched theme but the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tries to make a compelling argument.
Okay, okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. There’s no doubt this movie is a work of fiction. This isn’t some JFK movie or a conspiracy theory documentary. This movie is a historical fantasy that finds its base in a real and very legendary person.
So, armed with that knowledge let’s take a look at this movie. There were plenty of routes this movie could’ve gone down. Horror, suspense, action or maybe a bit of a drama. In truth, maybe the movie would’ve been better if it had chosen one of those paths instead of all of them. The way the movie played out was an attempt at a drama with large action sequences to break the slow pace and the constant build for “jump scares” throughout the entire film.
Interestingly enough, none of the vast elements were terrible but equally were not great. For example the combat sequences. While some of the fights were exciting and fluid there were a couple that were so absurd and over-the-top it took me out of the moment. That’s just an example, but the theme runs consistent.
What about the tie in to history? You can’t take a figure as famous as Abraham Lincoln and just hobble together a vampire story. I admit to being a bit of a history buff so I was looking sharply at how well the history would hold up. For the most part it was pretty solid. Abe’s mom did die when he was young, Abe did have a valet named William Johnson whom he met in Springfield, and without ruining to much of the story a lot of other “facts” did hold up too. There were some things that were either made up or missing (like the other Lincoln children) or didn’t actually stay with Lincoln his entire life (Speed moved to Kentucky).
Still, like so much else in this movie, even the solemn treatment of the history of Lincoln was countered by the abysmal scenery of the era. While watching the film I just felt like there were only four sets ever built: one street in Springfield, some dock in Indiana, a train, and the White House. Everything and anything else was either a grassy field with or without smoke and soldiers or done with the use of a green screen. For the first time I can recall I actually got sick of the same backgrounds OVER and OVER and OVER again. It felt like the producer and/or director decided to kill the budget on scenery and spent it on ordering Subway.
Right here I’m going to pause because I can hear the cry over the distance. “This sounds like a case of good book bad movie.” It might be a valid argument – after all I am praising the links to history and the neat ideas while complaining about the poor choices of genre direction and lame scenery. I haven’t read the book, but it may very well be a much better book than a movie. But I have concerns about that too, because overall the story still had a lot of issues.
The biggest blunder to me was the lack of any reason Abraham Lincoln would be able to fight vampires. No super powers. No historical slayer lineage. No ritual to give him some new abilities. Just, one day he’s suddenly able to match the power and speed of these superhuman vampires. It was a massive plot hole that drove me insane during the entire movie. There were also some serious logistical issues in some of the plot points – such as how fast people were able to travel when there were no cars or airplanes or anything of that nature. And the oddest issue to me was why the vampires would let someone they knew was hunting them make his way to the seat of President without some kind of fight – be it physical or political or anything. These are real loop holes, and if they are from the novel that’s sloppy writing – but if they are a result of a bad script that’s a terrible shame on the movie’s creative team. I’m not sure who to blame for that but it was unsettling enough to keep me from giving the book a chance – and that might be the biggest shame of all.
Back to the positive again: props to the actors. I really enjoyed the cast, particularly the three main stars Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) and Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker). The guy playing Abraham did a great job in a difficult role. It’s hard enough to play a real historical hero like Lincoln, but to play him as a both the wise President we all know as well as the hardcore vampire slayer we “didn’t” had to be a tough job but he carried the weight with ease.
Of course, as a counter, I wasn’t very interested in the villains. I can’t decide if it was the acting or just the way they were written but I never felt like I understood them or what their goals or desires were. My gut tells me that better vampires would have made the movie more exciting – which it was sorely in need of being.
That probably is the belly of the beast right there. The movie just wasn’t exciting. Wasn’t enthralling. It was a brilliant idea but wasn’t sewn up neatly enough to make this movie work. It was worth watching – ironically I paid five bucks cash – but I doubt I’ll buy the bluray. Good, not great. Dull but not terrible. Just kinda… meh.
And so I give Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a score of three out of five hatchets. By the way, Lincoln’s hatchet was absolutely ryboflavin.
Funny thing about this movie is that I went in thinking I couldn’t lose. It would either be an amazing action movie with a Presidential Legend hacking vampires apart OR it would try so hard to be taken seriously that it’d turn into a hilarious satire. I never expected that what would actually happen is a movie that managed to be just a bit serious and kick just a bit of butt but not get carried away with either option. Ironically the attempt to unify those two elements shattered the film.