Honest Abe split rails – and now, he’s splitting vampire skulls in this week’s Dual Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Another book-to-movie adaptation, this one follows little Lincoln through his secret life of vampire slaying and his rise in politics. Follow along as the boys give their two Lincolns about history’s tallest hunter with the fashionable facial hair.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an adaptation by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted) of Seth Grahame-Smith’s historical fantasy novel, exploring one of our greatest presidents’ secret vampire-slaying life. The movie’s a hybrid horror movie and straightforward biopic, but the end result is just an “OK” summer movie – not bad, just not scary or exciting enough to be anything more than the trailer suggests. It takes itself way too seriously, which makes it hard to enjoy the bloody mayhem unfold.
The director, Timur Bekmambetov tried to combine his unique vision with the now-obligatory 3D, but the two just don’t mix well. His fast-paced-Matrix-bullet time effect is so overused that even when used properly you just don’t care because it takes away from the dramatic moments you expect. No one should be chopping a tree in bullet time, even if the outcome is a tree splintered with one chop. And the 3D was simply not needed. It adds so many environmental layers (Dust, fog, smoke, rain, etc) that your eye is too busy watching that effect rather than focusing on the characters on-screen. Many times I missed what was being said because my eyes were chasing a piece of dust.
All these elaborate tidbits also help hide low-quality special effects. This isn’t a new film trick – adding fog to a scene to mask a bad effect is a classic example. The problem is, then nobody can see what’s going on, either – which is what happens in the climactic scene, taking place atop an out-of-control train with so much smoke you can hardly tell who’s who. It feels more like a video game cutscene than the finale of a movie.
The vampire effects are also weak. I find it so difficult to understand why fangs are no longer good enough for vampires – now we need CGI fangs and a jaw that dislocates like a snake. There are many gruesome kills in this, but they just don’t have any real, well, bite. And in a movie like this, the audience is showing up for some gore.
The actors do a good job for what they needed to do. Benjamin Walker does a commendable job of securing the film and selling its honesty. He’s in almost every scene and later appears under heavy makeup as the elder Lincoln, but he’s never overwhelmed. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a far better looking Mary Todd Lincoln than the real one. The make-up and wigs are hit-and-miss. (Winstead’s old age makeup is terrible.) But even with all that Walker and Winstead have decent chemistry together.
This is notably unlike Walker and Dominic Cooper as Abe’s vampire-slaying mentor. Normally Cooper is a fine actor, but it felt like he was phoning this one in and would rather be in a better vampire movie.
It’s is a fun movie with its heart in the right place, but not a good one. Over all the film is, ironically, bloodless, fumbling along from Great Lincoln Historical Moment to Great Lincoln Moment without much reason behind it, shoving a vampire in here and there.
A popcorn summer flick for sure, and if you approach the movie like that then you might have a bloody good time.
Lincoln is widely considered one of our greatest presidents ever; we put his face on a mountain! It only makes sense that he’d also be one of the greatest vampire slayers of all time, right? It’s from this self-evident truth that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is born, and in turn the loose adaptation of the book coming out this week.
In this film adaptation the story has been changed to protect the original’s integrity, as I can’t imagine the novel’s author (Seth Grahame-Smith) would want to be associated with it. That’s not saying the film is terrible or not worth seeing, but it just doesn’t resemble the original source material popular enough that they made a movie out of it.
The film’s chief flaw is trying to do too much in not enough time. Pacing is disjointed, as we only really get glimpses of Lincoln’s (Benjamin Walker) life as he loses his mother as a boy, to meeting his Buffy style watcher, Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), and then killing vampires for unknown amounts of time across the span of Lincoln’s entire life.
The reason to see this movie at all is it’s Abraham Lincoln killing vampires with a silver bladed axe, ‘nuff said. It continues director Timur Bekmambetov’s over-the-top action style, with fight scenes full of flourish but little substance. More emphasis is placed on on the finishing move rather than the volley of attacks that could build tension. That said there are a lot of vampires that meet their end in pretty entertaining axe-related ways.
Abraham Lincoln: VH is decent as another vampire-related slaughterhouse, but it’s rather poor at sneaking in details of the actual life of our 16th president. It’s also poor at getting me to be really invested in anything that’s going on. But it is fun enough to be worth seeing, if you’re already excited about it. Just make sure you catch a matinee, or maybe just wait till it hits Redbox this winter.