Four score and seven years ago, Abraham Lincoln did kick vampire butt
Quick Review: Fantasy, action, horror with plenty of blood shed, in a fictional retelling of the life-and-times of Abraham Lincoln. It’s like the origin story of how he could have become the a superhero that fights vampires, if any of the this was real. Decent enough fun movie to pass the time and have a chuckle about. Based on a book by the same title. 7/10 __________________________
Full Review: A young Abraham Lincoln is exposed to vampires from the age of 9 years, when he sees his mum being killed by one called Jack Barts. 10 years later he has tracked Barts down to exact revenge but fails. In the process of failing though he meets Henry Sturges, somebody who knows all about vampires already. Sturges takes him under his wing to teach about vampire slaying and how all the local vampires descended from Adam – a New Orleans plantation owning alpha vampire. Lincoln becomes a vampire assassin, working for Sturges and targeting the specific ones that he directs him towards. While doing his store clerk day job he meets young Mary Todd and they eventually marry, which Sturges is opposed to on the ground of emotional connections making vampire slayers weak. When some truths comes out about Sturges, Lincoln’s resolve is tested. He is further tested by Adam who knows all about Lincoln and tries trapping him with his own plan in mind. Fast forward to years later and Lincoln is president, he signs the Emancipation Proclamation (against Sturges’s better judgement because vampires use slaves as food, thus keeping them under control) which set into motion the civil war. The civil war is made all the more difficult Adam adding his vampires to the front line of the confederate forces, commanded by President Jefferson Davis. A fight against the undead ensues, which is a fight for freedom, a fight for the existence of a united America.
With the characters in the film very loosely based on actual people it is a difficult decision on how far to push accuracies before they become an insulting spoof of the person they are based on. There are some characters that are allowed to develop through the film, but for the most part the characters aren’t pushed too far. As well as based on historical fact, the film itself is an adaption from a book (Seth Grahame-Smith). With most books there is a richness and depth to characters – the film didn’t quite get this completely right. The film dragged in some places due to the development of characters but felt rushed unfulfilled in other places too – which is a weird combination.
I cant say I have seen Benjamin Walker in anything before (or after) this – he was good although there were times where I was not completely engaged in his character. Where he was particularly strong was the ability to grow into the role. The strength of character from the start to end of the film is a completely contrast and that was acted well – going from weedy nerd to strong and resolute. He also balanced out the delivery of action sequences to important speeches well. I enjoyed Cooper as Sturges a little more though, but this is the kind of role I have seen him in before so was not completely shocked. He looked comfortable in the role, rather than challenged to deliver – which is the mark of a good star turn. As supporting roles go, Anthony Mackie was good as Lincoln’s friend William Johnson, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also decent without setting the world on fire as Lincolns wife, Mary Todd. Besides Cooper though, the other performance I enjoyed the most was Rufus Sewell as Adam. He was a particularly good pantomime villain and nemesis to Lincoln and Sturges.
The effects were great in this film. There was plainly a lot of green screen used due to the type of action portrayed, but it was generally done in a tasteful way that did not make it look cheap or shoddy. The stand-out actions/effects for me were the horse stampede fight (yes it was cheesy too), and the train fight sequence. The vampirism effect was also done a little classier than I have seen in other movies and series – a vampire that’s tacky can be enough to make me want to turn a movie off.
As far as the choreography goes, yes, it’s over the top at times, yes there a lot of live wire shots with people jumping all over the place – but it’s not out of place in this film due to its comic book nature. Lincoln’s weapon of choice is the axe which he wields as skilfully as a trained samurai.
The general mise-en-scene throughout the film was good. Sets looked authentic, places looked dirty and dusty. Some scenes looked intentionally charming with good placement of cast and well framed shots. Some scenes were intentionally difficult for the audience to signify a challenge within the plot.
The script is uneven and slow in places. The film is clearly split into two parts. After a quick start, the second half to the first part becomes a little slow. When the second part of the film starts the pace gets going again. I put this down to the script and the need to develop characters through dialogue. Adaptions from books are usually difficult, while the book was able to develop the characters properly with time, the film did not. While the film script was not stand out, the film exceeds the book though is in the visual style for the actions.
The musical score paced the film well, particularly the train scene where the beat of the tracks matched the beat in the scores pace.
Directed and Produced by Timur Bekmambetov (with Tim Burton also producing too) and adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name, with Grahame-Smith also writing the screen play. This film is a fun, pulp-comic, popcorn style action, fantasy, horror film that uses a fictional story based around factual events and people, to portray good vs evil during the American Civil War. It is kind of like a fictional origin story for a superhero that nobody knew existed, and nobody can prove did not. Plenty of actions, blood, guts, and gore. Mild and brief nudity, with only two instances of swearing. Visually an exciting and engaging film with some great scenes that use CGI well. Not as strong on the scripting in my opinion but that is not essential for this type of film – more of a beer-in-hand action film to enjoy with friends than a deep and philosophical film to study repeatedly.