Saturday, June 23, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Movie Review

Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Alan Tudyk and Jimmi Simpson.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov.


In honor of our 16th president, I'll just make 16 points about this movie.

1. There is no attempt at cleverness with actual US history. I thought it might try to do a little revisionist behind-the-scenes details the way Forrest Gump or Dick did. Nope. The movie has characters like Stephen Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Jefferson Davis with the aspiration of getting the audience to go "I think I remember those names from a history class I took once" and no higher.

2. For years, Liam Neeson was tied to the Lincoln biopic that Steven Spielberg's directing. Neeson finally dropped out of that, and now Daniel Day-Lewis will star in it. I mention this because Benjamin Walker looks a lot like a young Liam Neeson. And hey, Walker got his big break from playing young Kinsey in Neeson's Kinsey.

3. There's a scene where Abe is chasing a vampire in the middle of some stampeding horses, and they run across the backs of these horses with amazing dexterity. It's one of the few scenes where the movie seemed to be in on its own joke. Most of the time it's played straight.

4. Throughout the whole Civil War, you'd think that Abe, his black friend Will Jonson (Anthony Mackie) and his business partner Mr. Speed (Jimmi Simpson) were running the entire country by themselves. Just the three of them.

5. As far as we know, Abe was just trained to be a really good fighter, but I missed the part of his training that made his bones unbreakable. For instance, in the horse scene, at one point the vampire picks up a horse and throws it at him. The horse hits Abe and they fall to the ground. I am pretty sure a horse landing on a man will break all of his ribs. Abe groans and shakes it off to renew pursuit.

6. Silver, we're told, was cursed by God against vampires due to silver being the payment Judas received for betraying Jesus. But our main villain vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell, who has more fun than most) is 5000 years old and it's been a curse agains thim the whole time. So...?

7. Abe's always had his axe laced with silver when hunting vampires and much of the film takes place in the 1830's. He's deep into the Civil War when he's trying to figure out how to beat these vampire Confederates, and he has a "Eureka!" moment looking at his silver fork. Why the heck did he not think of silver before?!

8. Dominic Cooper (The Devil's Double) plays Henry Sturges, the man who trains Abe to be a hunter. He pops up here and there throughout the movie and I enjoyed what they did with him. For what it's worth.

9. Why must the vampires bare their fangs and roar before attacking? Just attack, guys.

10. Late in the movie, the Lincolns' young son William is killed by a vampire. William did die during the Civil War (of typhoid or something like that). Not cool to bum out the audience like that late in a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Oh, in real life, the Lincolns had three other sons, but they don't come up here.

11. There are times Abe seems to have Jedi powers.

12. The "train on the burning bridge" scene was an impressive spectacle, but once again, it's just Abe, Will, and Speed on that train, delivering weapons to the Union troops. Where is everyone else in the country?

13. We saw the movie in 3-D, and it didn't really need to be. The 3-D wasn't bad (I forgot most of the time I was watching a 3-D film) but 3-D is a shade darker than its 2-D counterpart, and this movie already mostly takes place at night.

13a. (Sidenote: We saw the preview for Great Gatsby in 3-D and it looks like a living pop-up book. I'd rather see it in 2-D. We also had previews for the two stop-motion animation movies coming, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, and those types of movies look good in 3-D.)

14. I appreciated that the movie's revisionist take didn't entirely excuse humans for slavery. I mean, the vampires loved it because they used slaves as food, but there were clear Southern humans who had slaves too. The cameo of Jefferson Davis is him making an agreement with Adam.

15. The movie did make it look like Lincoln and Douglas's rivalry started because they both liked Mary Todd, and Lincoln was adamently anti-slavery his whole life. Uh huh.

16. Director Timur Bekmambetov might have a sense of humor but it rarely comes out in this, and the fight scenes are full of those slo-mo then speed-up shots. I've seen Wanted, but I don't need to see the exact same style over and over. Keep this man away from anything historical in the future.

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