Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Directed by : Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Seth Graham-Smith (novel/screenplay)
Why are you interested in this adaptation?
I am interested in this movie primarily because all or at least significant parts of it were filmed in New Orleans. I spent a month last year running past a cordoned off section of grass in Audubon Park that was being grown out for use in this movie (seriously, it was labeled). It was enough to make me curious.
The premise…eh, the premise. At least it was an original story, which is more than I can say for Seth Grahame Smith’s atrocious mangling of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I am still upset about not for messing with the canon of Austen but for doing it so fucking badly why did he call them underwear the whole book and oh my god why were there ninjas what the fuck that made no fucking sense and I need to take a deep breath or two and—
Okay. Yeah. So, at least an original story might be easier for him not to fuck up? And maybe there will be good costumes?
I am interested in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because I can read English. How can you NOT be interested in a movie that portrays the 16th President of the United States as an axe-swinging Buffy?
HOW CAN YOU NOT?!
Now granted, I have seen the director’s past works (Nightwatch, Wanted) so I know I’m not in for a Tarantinoesque, tongue-in-cheek homage to the genre (is “Vampire movie” a genre yet?). I am in for a bunch of CGI with a lot of slo-mo and hopefully Benjamin Walker’s naked body.
Wait, wait, wait, Nightwatch director did this one? THAT is why I’m interested! Nightwatch was pretty badass, if I recall correctly. I mean, I think it was. I saw it on the pre-theatrical release rough translation that didn’t make much sense subtitles. Or maybe the story just made no sense? But I liked how he handled the film and the vampires in it….
What would make it awesome?
If it WERE a Tarantino film. IT WOULD BE SO AWESOME. Alas, it is not. So I guess it will be awesome if it is funny. The book itself isn’t hilarious beyond its mash-up premise (much like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the other Seth Graham-Smith book you’ve heard of), but this is a film adaptation, and by god the premise is so silly they might as well go full comedy.
It’s going to be pretty hard to sit through 2 hours of actual Abe Lincoln grimly dispatching vampires if there isn’t any humor. Give us the Buffy quips!
On second thought – maybe this should have been a Joss Whedon film? I’ll be Enver Gjokaj could pull off Abe! (He can pull off anything…. Including my shirt *puts on sunglasses * YEEEAAAHHHHHH).
Hm. I think for me what will make this movie awesome is if they can make me forget I’m watching a movie where Abe Lincoln hunted vampires. Either laughter or emotional investment work to take me to that magical place of unselfconscious suspension of disbelief.
What would make it suck?
Ninjas. Seriously, if there are any fucking ninjas in this movie I am walking out of the theater, review or no review.
Aside from that…if it is a Hollywood CG reach-around flick that proves this director only has a vision when he has no budget. That kind of backslide from a promising start always pisses me off.
This is a vampire movie, it’s supposed to suck.
WHY DO YOU ALL HATE PUNS?
This is designed to be a terrible film. So I think a better question would be – how could this film not be FUN? And if it takes its premise too seriously and tries to deliver a straight action film that just happens to star a creepy Lincoln face and a top hat…it will suck.
Thoughts on casting/production?
Well, I’m not going to lie. I’m not a big fan of Timur Bekmambetov. Even James McAvoy’s beautiful face didn’t allow me to see past the fact that he was curving bullets by…essentially…bending his arm. WHAT? DEAR TIMUR – PHYSICS.
But, seeing as this is a movie about how Abe Lincoln is a freaking vampire hunter – I think I’m going to be OK with suspending all rules of the universe.
As to the film’s star, Benjamin Walker. I have no idea who he is? I have a bunch of friends who are into the NYC theater/Broadway scene and they all know exactly who he is – a talented stage star. So awesome! I love it when hard working theater dorks get a fat paycheck. Maybe Ben Walker is the next Hugh Jackman? Is there dancing in this movie? (Thinks about the axe-ballet in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) TWIRL BENNY, TWIRL!
I…no. I didn’t know this was a director whose work I’m familiar with, and I don’t recognize any of the actors, and all I know about the production was the local scuttlebutt about the filming possibly being the reason for half the flock of Bird Island abandoning the site, which if that’s true is inexpressibly upsetting to me from an ecological standpoint since the Audubon Park rookery is one of basically three sites in the entire state where waterbirds nest and breed. Bird Island being abandoned would be like the Central Park red-tails leaving. So…second what Rachel said?
Reaction to film:
I think maybe Benjamin Walker took my “twirl” wish to heart. BOY TWIRLED HIS DAMN ASS OFF!
Full disclosure: I saw this movie with my friends on one of their birthdays. We got drunk on rum beforehand, and I made the birthday girl wear a top hat with a tiara affixed to the front and carry a toy axe. I spent approximately half of the movie laughing my highly sugared ass off.
But not because it was funny.
At one point, I shouted “WHAT IS THIS MOVIE ABOUT?” (Don’t worry. There were only four other people in the theater with us, and they were shouting too, I think.)
We all walked out of the film with shell-shocked looks on our faces. The plot is pretty thin on this one, guys, and it deviates a lot from the book. Abe Lincoln’s mom is eaten by a vampire, and he spends the rest of his life fighting vampires with the help of this vampire he meets, and the bad guy from A Knight’s Tale runs the Confederate army. It is mostly a slow-motion movie with CGI settings in which Ben Walker axe-twirls his way from one sunglass-wearing vamp to the next. Ramona Flowers and Wash from Firefly make a few appearances. Even though the movie covers 30 or so years, no one ages. Except Lincoln, who bizarrely goes from super handsome Ben Walker to creepy wax figure Lincoln. I saw it in 3D, and the slow motion and CGI effects are so cluttered that there are entire scenes where I kind of just sat back and thought about inkblots and sand drawings.
The main conceit of the movie is that evil sunblock-wearing vampires want America to have slaves because it makes it easier for them to have super boring parties in their shitty mansions with walking buffets. Or something. This made me feel squicky, not gonna lie. I’m not sure I’m at the point in my life where I can … write off slavery as something resulting from supernatural bullshit in an action movie. Lincoln even uses the Underground Railroad to transport silver to Gettysburg so they can kill the vampire army! I MEAN WHO WRITES THIS AND THINKS IT’S NOT OFFENSIVE? Lincoln was basically Moses…an axe-twirling, horse-catching, train-crashing Moses. Only he was a white dude, and the Hebrew slaves were black. Squicky.
OH right…the HORSE TOSSING. Let’s talk about thaaaat.
So there is this ridiculous scene where Lincoln chases a bad vamp via a herd of horses that magically transport them from somewhere in Illinois to the Grand Canyon. This CGI herd of horses runs and runs while Lincoln and vampire ride and run and hop their way across them. The vampire picks up a horse…and CHUCKS it at Lincoln who CATCHES the horse, puts it down and swings up like Legolas to continue riding the horse.
I don’t even.
No CG horses were harmed in the making of this film!
Not a joke, y’all. There’s a scene where the herd is scuttling along the edge of the mysteriously grand canyon in the middle of Illinois, and the horses that start to fall off the edge all manage to regain their balance and not fall to their deaths. Seriously, this movie was like Abe Lincoln of Mars with its regard for (by which I mean, complete and utter ignorance of) the actual laws of physics.
Meanwhile Lincoln has this superhot vampire friend who is remarkable only in his sunglasses collection who teaches him not to be a bigot against vampires (but we already know Lincoln isn’t a bigot because he’s also got black friends)…and also teaches him the way of Vampire fu. It makes you crazy strong even if you are NOT vampire, and that is why Abe can catch horses and chop down trees in one fell swoop.
Yeah, about that…how was that “one stroke” when he took like…10 swings? And then the tree falls? Um. Unless he was hitting a different tree each time I’m pretty sure there was a cumulative effect happening. Just sayin’.
SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS. WHAT IS UP WITH THIS MOVIE?
Abe Lincoln, who does nothing but lie to people in the film (hilarious?), was strangely uncompelling. The action scenes were monotonous; the blame slavery on evil vampires plot made me uncomfortable, and most importantly it wasn’t funny. I can’t imagine how torturous this film would have been if I had not been inebriated.
Alas, for any of our readers who might have been interested in a sober analysis of the film, neither can I. I, too, got rummy for this film (literally…by drinking RUM, because I live in New Orleans, which in the summertime is basically the Caribbean and used to be sugar cane capital of the continent, and rum is what we drink here). I went straight college style, just before the movie I dumped a third of my Coke into the toilet and poured in the bottle. I was worried I might miss (“I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob”) the opening of the movie because of my liquor detour, but I took that time anyway because I saw this movie on Thursday after a full week to contemplate its 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and…no. Anyway, I didn’t miss a thing except a couple shitty previews for shitty movies I know I won’t be seeing.
Right. So, the movie. The movie was…yes: the movie was.
Rachel covered the salient points of how there was not much of a plot and the various “characters” just kind of showed up and said lines and how the action on screen was frenetic and hard to follow. And derivative. There was nothing new in these action sequences, just 50 Shades of Neo.
Rachel hits the point that underscores much of my discomfort with urban fantasy as a genre: it reduces either or both human problems and human redemption to the mercy of non-human influences. Both are insulting. Reducing both the entire argument for secession to “we want slaves” and the entire concept of institutionalized slavery to being so vampires have an easy food supply is just…asinine. As a Southerner I am insulted by the implication that the only reason the South won some of the battles was because the Confederate Army was all vampires. As an American I am saddened that the single most devastating war in our history was reduced to righteous humans versus evil, evil vampires. I guess that whole brother versus brother thing was just a lie. Riiiiiight.
I actually think the idea of vampires fighting because they wanted a nation of their own to be quite compelling. If the film hadn’t been so set on blaming slavery on the vampires, there could actually have been a really compelling subplot about what the vampires wanted and how maybe their desire for freedom was perhaps legitimate. But instead the vampire leaders were all caricatures of villains, and not nearly smart enough to have actually been around long enough to be certain they were immortal. They couldn’t train rob as effectively as the crew of Serenity, and they lived in mansions that were old and run-down and shitty even though IN THE TIME THIS IS SET THE HOUSE WOULD HAVE BEEN NEW. In the end I think my complaint is pretty much the same as it was with P&P&Z: there was a lot of potential for a really great story, and all of it was squandered.
But at least the vampires were appropriately monstrous in their miens. And none of them sparkled. And they at least tried to show the progression of time via Ramona Lincoln’s dresses.
Still. None of it was enough to make this movie good or even enjoyable. All I can say is, it lived up to every bit of its 35%.