Monday, July 9, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Bounty Hunter Is A Bloody Mess

America's 16th President Battles Slavery, Dissension, Vampires and Mediocrity in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

ARTH VADER (AV): If we are discussing the vapid hysterical, uh I mean–historical revisionist tale of Abe Lincoln written by Seth Grahame-Smith, then this book follows the tale to a tee. If we mean the historical events and personage of the US Presidency during the war between the states and the years leading up to them… eh, not so much. A story like this is a real quandary for me, Ponitficator because I pride myself as an armchair historian (yes, I even subscribe to Armchair General magazine!), but this story, supposedly pulled from "secret diaries", recants a tale of honest camaraderie and struggle in the face of overwhelming adversity. I will dismiss now ANY notion of historical alignment and we will simply review the movie and it's popular cinema relevance. That said, the movie does the story justice. 
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I haven't read the book Vader, so for me there is only one frame of reference. So... does this movie stay true to the original historical material? Well, Abraham Lincoln lived, he was President, he had a spouse named Nancy and a son named Willie, but for a few other details... the film diverges from reality and leaves out much accuracy. With so much known about Abe, it only seems logical to streamline the facts... or bog the movie down with details that won’t make you jump out of your seat. Oh... and I’m pretty sure he didn’t hunt Vampires... although I can’t commit to this position with 100% conviction. 

AV: The casting was solid, particularly lead man Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln. Tall, commanding, steadfast and portraying tempered resolve, he worked well in the role. Dominic Cooper plays writer and convert Vampire, Henry Sturgis and does so particularly well. Fittingly, the Vampires are portrayed as vile, ungodly and despicable monsters that must be vanquished. The movie's direction is solid with a classic array of slow-motion battle scenes, spliced with wide-angle battle-field shots and gore sequences of bloodletting as Honest Abe cleaves his way through the seemingly endless onslaught of undead bloodsuckers. I have to call out one shot in particular that felt so out of place that, though it was small felt odd and kind of off-set the entire film's pacing to me after it. There is a scene roughly a third of the way through the movie that does a fast close-up of a building in rural Illinois that feels so out of pace with the scenes that came before  and after that it just sort of left with a big WTF hovering over my head for the rest of the film. 
TP: Not going the big name actor route actually worked for this film. Benjamin Walker bares a resemblance to actor great Liam Neeson in this film and simply captures attention off this alone (lucky him). He is a great actor and was fun to watch as he brought Abe to life...while, uh... taking life from the... undead? It’s my biased opinion, but I also enjoyed Rufus Sewell as the Vampire head baddie, Adam. I loved his role in “A Knights Tale” and think him to be perfectly suited for the role of any film. The casting, therefor, was done well and the directing kept the film at a fast pace with plenty of surprises.
AV: The effects people really had fun with this movie, P-Man. There are some great panoramic battlefield scenes that are quite impressive. And  while I thoroughly enjoyed how this movie looked, I must say the burning train bridge/final vampire fight was just too over the top for my liking. While I would never want to deny any movie of it's potential, the SFX here are just overdone. The final fight with vampires atop an old-time locomotive was probably cooler in the storyboarding than it was in execution. It's hard for me to wrap my head around such sequences (not unlike those of the Sherlock Holmes ilk) where under-trained 'regular guys' can stand back-to-back on train moving 70 miles an hour and take down a horde of vampires in the dark. Sorry, as a life-long sci-fi and action movies lover–I ain't buying it. 
TP: I concur Vader. I struggle to see the relevance of 3D in most films, and this film really wasn’t any different except that the 3D wasn’t used to bring the action in your face as much as simply closer to you. Like every 3D film, there were scenes that leaped out... but I’m still waiting for this to happen consistently throughout the film. Everything seen here has been seen before. The slow motion action and freeze frame sequences made famous by “The Matrix” still look nice here... although some sequences had me wondering were my glass of wine was as I watched the cheese. In the sequence you mention Vader... I was looking for the whole bottle!
AV: Let me take a moment here and inform our readers that I am absolutely enthralled with all things vampire. Underworld, Interview with a Vampire (book & film), Bram Stroker's Dracula, True Blood, Priest, 30 Days of Night, From Dusk 'til Dawn–yes, even (gulp!) the Twilight saga (the books at least have considerable merit)–the list is endless. So I have been known to give a pass to vamp flicks–and so it goes here as well. I actually had a fun time with this movie and saw it with my 14-year old son and his 12-year-old twin brothers. We all had fun and the though I did have to explain the historical inconsistencies–"no son, not all confederates were vampires"–, the value of this film lies purely in its ability to entertain. Not excessively gory, ridiculous if not fun and a great laugh-out-loud ending, this movie threatens to put a smile on your face and a few "what if" thoughts in your head. Some would say that makes the film a success. Thoughts, Pontificator? 
TP: I think much of the problem for this film was simply getting past the title, Vader. I’m guilty, like so many, of being put off by the idea of Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires. Once the movie started though and took a serious approach to the character and period, I was immediately put back on again and shook my head at what a mistake the title was. I also noticed that I wasn’t laughing... at all, during the movie. There was nothing funny as it took itself too seriously while bombarding me with over-the-top bloody action sequences. The general idea of the film though was very interesting... and prompted me to even research to see if silver was indeed used as ammunition at Gettysburg. There were some parts of it that physics says couldn’t be done by mere mortals... and I took those sequences a reminder that although the film took itself seriously, I really shouldn't.
AV: Not seeing much value in pursuing future installments of this story, Ponty. This movie was fun, freaky fantasy but the value of this film stops there. Some vampire coolness to be sure but since NOTHNG was explained properly–like why was the confederacy in league with the vampires? What was in it for them? Why were vampires able to walk around in the sunlight but still be susceptible to silver? If the answer is 'go read the book' then I rest my case. This will be fine as a one-shot effort.
TP: Although the door was left open to continue in modern times with the whole vampire hunting gig... it’s best to let this movie stand alone and find more life in the rental audience than make, yet, another vampire film in a market that has been inundated with them. Vampires are cool again, but the constant milking of this cow will simply make them annoying... to everyone except those enthralled like you Vader.
ARTH VADER rates Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: I cannot tell a lie–to this movie's credit, it is fun and doesn't require a whole lot of brain cells to enjoy. However, it's also the film's shortcoming. Choppy story-editing, fairly ridiculous dialogue and hyper-unrealistic, overly fantastic scenarios stop this movie from approaching even campy greatness. Still worth a viewing, but–honestly–(ahem) you could wait for the DVD or Pay-per-view rental on this one. With that, I won't drop the ax here because to be fair this flick doesn't–uh–suck, but at six busted blocks, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter does unfortunately bite off more than it can chew. 
THE PONTIFICATOR rates Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: It’s a shame many were put off by the title and never gave this movie a chance. It turned out to be much fun and was more entertaining that I expected it to be. Box office revenue put a stake through the heart of this film, yet it was very entertaining and still managed to bite and suck the blood out of seven punctured blocks.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: 6.5/10 Busted Blocks

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1 comment:

  1. You know, I read the book actually before the movie was released and then tried to be patient for the theater to get the film. What I can say about the book is that even though it does have much of the historical time line of his life, the choppiness between his reviewing the past and the story's current time point makes this a strange read. I guess if someone thought Hunger Games was a phenomenal novel then they might like this book as well.
    Still, I'm surprised they didn't do a better job with the movie. It's so much easier to show than to try and portray in writing and hope a reader smoothly transitions between the sudden stops of Abe recalling a memory and the story itself.
    I'll simply wait for the DVD to come out before watching it though! Thanks for the awesome review, Arth!