Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I had to do it.  Sure, the mere mention of the title elicited incredulity and every time the trailer ran, it drew rounds of mockery and snickering.  Despite the fact that talking heads claimed that the book upon which the film is based, is an interesting read with an attention to historic detail, I knew not a single person who had read it.  Critic reviews, cinema scores, and box office figures be damned, I was not to be deterred.  Now having seen Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I can tell you that while some of the derision thrust upon it is understandable, it may not be completely warranted.

The movie follows the life of Abraham Lincoln from small boy in Illinois through the Civil War adding a fictionalized element to his biography – that the sixteenth president of the United States was a vampire slayer (pause for laughter).  The plot goes on to weave vampires into the state and affairs of the U.S. government as it rumbles towards the Civil War.

I think a lot of what has kept people away from this movie is that they feel the premise is ridiculous, which in many ways it is.  But then is it any more ridiculous than the plot of some other movies?  We know that Abraham Lincoln as a vampire slayer never existed, but then neither did Van Helsing, Buffy, nor Blade.  That the movie is so grounded in history and that it gives vampires a prominent role in the Civil War seems to be another point of contention for critics and viewers alike.   Again, I would counter that it is no more preposterous than placing the X-men at the center of the Cuban Missile Crisis in X-Men: First Class or placing Jack and Rose near the center of the Titanic sinking.  After all, last time I checked, this film never claimed to be anything more than fiction. 

With all this having been said, this movie is incredibly flawed but still manages to be somewhat entertaining.  There is not a lot of character development in the film; the dialogue is quite clunky; the CG is second rate; and outside of Benjamin Walker – who at times bears a striking resemblance to honest Abe – the rest of the cast fails to impress.   This is particularly disappointing since Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are capable of delivering strong performances.  Still the movie moves at a brisk pace and builds tension through some well imagined action sequences and typical cheap scares.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is really going to challenge your “willing suspension of disbelief” and if you cannot get past the notion that you are watching the Abraham Lincoln that you know from history books twirling an axe while chasing blood sucking fiends from beyond, then watching this film will turn into two hours of eye-rolling.  If you can take the film as a piece of fiction designed only to entertain, then you will be treated to mediocre summer action fare which is light on depth and exposition but loaded with explosions and fisticuffs.  If you’re the former, then avoid, avoid, avoid.  If you are the latter, catch it on Netflix somewhere down the road when you’re in need of mindless entertainment.

Standout Performance: Benjamin Walker bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln late in the movie so perhaps the MVP of this movie should go to the makeup artists.


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