Friday, 22 June 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

 Rating: ★★★

Whoa! We were never taught about Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires in history class? Maybe because he didn't.

History and Hollywood don't mix
Hollywood is famous for taking historical events and adding a little bit of artistic license and a lot of movie magic to make a more marketable film. But Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter takes it to a whole new level. Based on a novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, the film combines Van Helsing-style action scenes with characters and events from the legendary American President's life. Normally if a film wanders too far from the truth, in a plot based on historical events, audiences and critics react badly. That was definitely a problem with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

If I was thinking like a posh movie critic I would say 'this film was a totally unbelievable, mind numbing waste of time'. But if I was thinking like a teenage boy I would say 'this film is sick'! Most of the action scenes, though completely unrealistic, are incredibly exciting. My favorite is when Abe is fighting with a vampire in the middle of a stampede of horses. I was on the edge of my seat and my breath was taken!

Sucking the life out of the audience
The film goes into a downward spiral halfway though. Abe becomes President and everything becomes a lot more unbelievable, boring and confusing. I think this is because the audience's brains are completely switched off up until this point and then all-of-a-sudden the film becomes very slow and weighted. The pace picks up again in time for the epic final fight scene - which has some unexpected twists and amazing effects - although it is hard to believe a president would be able to get involved in a fight like that. 

Benjamin Walker makes a pretty good action hero but is a weird choice for a film like this because he has yet to prove himself in the action movie genre - only previously appearing in such weighty dramas as Flags of our Fathers. He, like the rest of the film, takes a turn for the worse in the second half, when his trademark Lincoln beard and stovepipe hat were so unbelievable that they got a laugh from the audience. 

Super Cooper to the rescue
Dominic Cooper gives the film its star power. He plays Abe's mentor, teaching him how to fight vampires. As per usual the mentor character is unwilling at first but comes around in the end. Yet another aspect of the film that is very clichéd.

A touch of Tim
I've already mentioned how similar to the Hugh Jackman action-fest Van Helsing this film was, but let me just elaborate. It has exactly the same mix of gothic atmosphere and epic CGI action scenes  which eventually become quite simply exhausting - although this might also have something to do with producer Tim Burton's influence. It has so much blood in it by the end, it did remind me of the gorefest that was Sweeney Todd and Sleepy Hollow.

They missed a trick... or treat
I think the filmmakers have tried to take advantage of the empty release calendar in the run-up to the summer blockbusters, but this film had a real Halloween vibe about it, and it seems a shame that they didn't decide to take advantage of that. And maybe if they had cut out some of the blood they could have got a 12A certificate, which apart from all the gore seemed like a more appropriate audience to me. The film already has a very narrow target audience and by making it a 15 they're cutting out half of it. That said maybe it'll come out on DVD in time for Halloween, when I suspect some younger boys might be sneaking it past their parents to watch at home.

I have to recommend you see this film in 3D because for the first time ever I felt like the third dimension added an extra thrill almost worth the extra cost of the ticket.

Ultimately, while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, is completely ludicrous — and this is only made more apparent by the use of a real historical figure — it was also ludicrously entertaining. And by the end of the movie, I wanted to pick up an axe and go slice up some vampires.

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