HST Discusses Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

hr_Abraham_Lincoln-_Vampire_Hunter_14Zac:  Abraham Lincoln: friend, husband, President, Vampire Hunter.  “Wait, what?” is what you might be asking yourself after hearing a sentence like that, but that is just what this film presupposes about our 16th President.

Re-building our nation’s history to include vampires is a delicate tight rope to walk, one I am not too sure if the film does very effectively, but it is an intriguing premise nonetheless.  In this alternate history a vengeful vampire murdered Lincoln’s mother, and after his father passes Lincoln is cleared with a path to finally try and seek revenge against his mother’s murderer, Jack Barts.  Lincoln successfully puts a bullet in his targets head, but he quickly discovers Barts is more than meets the eye (no, he isn’t a Transformer).  Coming to Lincoln’s aid is a vampire hunter named Henry who offers to train Lincoln in the ways of vampire killing, and this future President begins to live up to the film’s title.

Lauren:  If you are coming in thinking there is a delicate tight rope indicating the sensitivity of the story and how it can be changed you’re already going into this movie wrong.  Like Inglourious Basterds and how they mess with the facts of WWII and Hitler’s death, you have to be willing to accept anything that comes your way as an alternate “history” of what could have happened had things been different.  If you can accept this, and are willing to let all historical accuracy go out the window, then this may be for you because the storytelling and entertainment value will not be lost.

Zac: The tightrope I was referring to was the line between being good and something truly awful.  I am fine with playing with history; in fact I wish they had done more so and really reveled in the crazy world they created.  Instead, they seem to try a little too hard to tie everything into history.  Why stop at Lincoln being the only figure you play with?  They introduce a lot of historical figures and they are nothing more than, “hey look who that is” cameos.  I mean, what a waste of Alan Tudyk!

While I do wish they went more bat shit with the alternate history, I loved the way Timur Bekmambetov brought our country’s real moments to life.  From the battlefield to the podium, Bekmambetov beautifully brings to life the period; loved those big sweeping aerial shots.  Also, top notch work on making our lead, Benjamin Walker, look like a dead ringer for Liam Neeson (they had to be upset when Neeson was unable to do Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic, which they were obviously trying to match) as young Lincoln and the actual President when we catch up to his time in the White House.

Lauren:  I was so frustrated about Tudyk as well!  Other than a few jealous looks at Mary there wasn’t enough to even warrant his part in the film, so they should have just cut him out altogether.

But as for the history lessons, I will say that I loved them playing around with the battlefields and working vampires into the Civil War in a way that was just like: “hm… Yeah… I’ll believe that because you made me want to.”  But at the same time it took a lot of the energy out of the film when Abe found less time for his solo ax mission.  After a handful of kills in the beginning everything culminates in a horse chase (very much so balance checking on the tight rope you talk about) and Abe interrupting a party that allowed for some blood to be spilt in a way that would not let you forget it is 3D (like Resident Evil: Afterlife, but fitting).  And then he got old, and he got a white house, he got boring, and the dialog started to get less humorous and rather preachy about slavery.  I’m assuming it was supposed to be winking at actual speeches and issues, but enough was enough.

Zac: The horse stampede was the highlight of the film personally.  And as solid as the effects were, the film as a whole felt like it needed a few million more dollars to put things over the top.  Instead we are left with a bit too much editing around the weak effects, way to much smoke in the big finale (even with being on a train and an inflamed bridge), and I felt like they were always holding back just a bit because the budget wasn’t quite there to let them play as much as they would have liked.

In fact, had they kept things more intimate in the set pieces (like the early scenes) instead of going for the BIG moments I wouldn’t have complained one bit.  The best fight, outside the stampede, was a simple hand-to-hand fight with Henry and some baddies and I would gladly have traded in the big finale for some more of that.

Lauren:  And I could have traded the horse stampede (which seemed to come a little early for me in the story considering it was the “revenge” element) for more like his first night of hunting instead of having it all wrapped up in a rather quick montage that shortens the time we get to see Walker throwing down in close combat.  And a little more of the relationship with Mary Todd, with a complete redo of that ball scene.  It was way too intense conversationally for the two of them considering it was only the second time they were talking to each other, with this overly “Isn’t this romantic!” feel that had me thinking that at any second the world was going to fall away like Pride and Prejudice’s ball for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  But the rest of their relationship, no matter how rushed and overly cutesy was fine by me because it matched the film overall, and I believe Mary Elizabeth Winstead made the most of her small bits on screen (with a pretty BA moment towards the end, might I add).

Zac: Agree, we needed a lot more with Mary Todd and Lincoln to buy into their relationship, and that ball left me with a feeling of, “that’s it?” Winstead was almost as big a waste as Tudyk.  That said, the acting is fine throughout the film and I think Walker does a great job as Lincoln.  He hits the comedic beats, handles the action superbly, and has the gravitas to convincingly play Lincoln.  Rufus Sewell works as a convincing villain, the aforementioned Winstead is solid as always, and Dominic Cooper steals scenes as Henry.  Anthony Mackie sadly continues to get nothing to do in his roles since Hurt Locker, and Jimmi Simpson is wasted and forced to play an oddly characterized role.  Overall, as good as anyone is, everyone is underutilized besides Walker.

Lauren:  Agreed.  Mackie really does deserve more than what he’s getting on screen in most films, and Simpson’s character was all over the place for me as someone I could never read.  So in the end it comes down to Walker, who had no problem carrying the movie as Lincoln.  Even with all those prosthetics on his face to make him look like the President later on his performance never got lost, I just wish that he had gotten even more slaying in considering that’s what I expected to see going in.  I thought this would be all early year stuff, but instead the film switches from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to Abraham Lincoln: Slavery Abolisher.  Not a ruining factor by far, but if we’re changing history let’s just go all out on his “origin story” and leave the presidency to the life after film.

Zac: The film isn’t without some shortcomings in my opinion, but I enjoyed it for the most part.  There are a bunch of little nitpicks and I wish there was a slightly better effects budget, but if you know what you are getting into there is some fun to be had.

Lauren:  Actually there is a lot of fun to be had if you know what you’re getting into; it just loses its momentum for a while.  Now onto the real reason why Harry S. Truman dropped WWII ending bombs!

Zac: C+
Lauren:  B-    

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