Saturday, June 23, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a review

The easiest part of this review will be explaining the plot. When he loses his mother to a vampire, Abe decides to take up the axe and bring down a spreading clan of vampires found in the increasing south. Seriously. Abraham Lincoln meets 300.

Roll with me.

TECHNICAL

From the very beginning, expect MTV-style editing and hyper-kinetic pacing. With gorgeous cinematography and (for the most part) great special effects, Abe Lincoln is fully rendered in glorious cinematic exuberance. Abraham Lincoln ripping vampires apart in creative ways caused great and giddy laughter from me in the theater. There are instances of obvious GCI involving a horse stampede and Timur has a knack for repeatedly focusing on the face of vampires as they bare their fangs. First 100 times were cool, but it eventually becomes tiresome.

Battle sequences involving a horse stampede are as over the top as can be, but they are enticing in that they end on a climactic one on one thrown down, which works nicely. I personally would've loved some more centered action scenes involving less rapid-fire editing, but it all works.

The actions scenes with Abe wreaking vengeance on his mother's vampiric killer began with a perfunctory, almost clunky execution (lulz) but then would often end on a spectacular note. Watching someone get shot through the skull, and then get thrown clear THROUGH a building in epic slow motion was, well, epic.

I expect nothing less from the director of Wanted. Exacting slow motion showcasing bloody imagery of dead vampires and body parts caterwauling across the digital spectrum with veracious aplomb. The final action sequence involving a train takeover and some truly stunning pyrotechnics is a satisfying climatic end.

Stunning.

NARRATIVE

When we are first introduced to Abe as a kid and to his future vampire slayer Will, the instantaneous shifting in speed often results in scenes moving far too quickly for their own good. Having Abe's relationship with his mother relegated to a scene on her deathbed worked very well, but it was the first real intimate scene we are given, and it is far too short.

For the first half of the film, most of the scenes move very quickly, though they do settle for certain instances. One being the introduction of Abe's future wife Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Their chemistry is well-played, and doesn't quite rely on cliche.

Benjamin Walker is dutifully introverted as the rising president, and to his credit, he plays the role as straight as possible. However, for the second half of the film, after Abe has vanquished his mother's murderer, the film leaps forward several decades and we see Abe as president. The fight has been relegated to the back burner, and the second half meanders until a dramatic (and somewhat obvious) revelation offers to change the tide of the escalating war.

We are treated to various helicopter shots of the waging Civil War, but not enough to close combat. Similar to Troy, we don't get enough individual combat to fully show off the awesome power of vampires and cannon fodder.

The ending, however, is where the film falters. Bringing the story from the past to the present removed any sense of myth form the preceding 105 minutes, and felt tacked on. Especially with a wealth of history to tackle, the ending is a big let down.

MEANING

The obvious use of slavery as a metaphor works quite nicely. As an analogy of sucking the life from another, vampirism works perfectly. It was used wonderfully in The Addiction as a drug motif, and it works equally well here.

Specifically, I noticed a trend in the film, starting with the individual scale of evil, and what one man can do. However, thankfully, the film takes a more corporate view of sin and evil in the second half and becomes a critique of individualism. To fully conquer evil takes more than a single human, and Abe realizes this, thus entering into politics to do what he can.

The entire film, which has a hint of graphic novel essence to it, is really a straight laced narrative about the evils of slavery and the need for human unity in combating sin.

CONCLUSION

Riff with social and political (and even spiritual) themes, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is as epic a movie as the trailer indicated. Though there are mentioned weaknesses, the fun-factor is strong, the acting is surprisingly strong and the concept is executed well.

3.5 out of 5.

--Nick

1 comment:

  1. This one could have definitely been a lot more ridiculous and insane, like the premise seemed like it promised, but I still had fun with it. Surprised this actually did well at all at the box office. Totally thought that people weren't all that interested in the idea of Honest Abe, hacking up vamps, but I guess there is a big enough crowd out there for this. Good review Nick.

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