Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Let's Talk About: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Let's Talk About is - going to be, hopefully - a series aimed at discussing things that I've read, watched or listened to, and found necessitating further discussion later on. Stay tuned for fun stuff.

Note: This is mostly aimed as a rebuttal, after reading Shereen Gaber's review of the movie here.

All right. So, last week I've had the chance - or rather the misfortune- of watching the movie adaptation of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, a novel by Seth Grahame-Smith which aims at sprucing up one of America's most famous presidents, by making him moonlight as a vampire hunter. 

I actually enjoyed the book a great deal; it was well-written, played its cards right, and even though the entire situation was completely ludicrous, my suspension of disbelief remained entirely untouched.

So, when I learned that the book was to be adapted into a movie, I rejoiced! It seemed like a perfect match, and they'd even managed to bring in Grahame-Smith to write the movie script. It was going to be great! Even better, Timur Bekmambetov, of Night Watch and Wanted fame, was going to direct it. Crazy, unrelenting action and set-pieces! Woo!

Then, I watched the movie.

I honestly cannot overstate how underwhelming the entire affair was. I couldn't believe how they could've managed to screw it up so badly, and yet they did. How? Let's see.

1- The cast: Benjamin Walker does a passable job as the youthful, gigantic and brash Abe. He's good-natured, somewhat shy and restrained, but I couldn't help but find him boring, and uninteresting. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Dominic Cooper are clearly the MVPs of the movie, doing a stellar job of portraying their respective actors. Rufus Sewell does a ho-hum job of Adam, the leader of the vampires; typical creepy, ultra-powerful, vacuous villain.

But honestly, even at their best, I couldn't help but roll my eyes all through the movie, which brings us to..

2- The script: Oh god, where do I begin? I'm not entirely sure what happened when Grahame-Smith wrote the script, but clearly something went terribly wrong. After a largely entertaining novel, we experience a lame, awkward script lacking interesting dialogue or events. The pace is weird, too fast-paced, skipping entire events in the novel or changing them into something that is far worse. (Slave driver vampire killing Abe's mother? Abe learning of the South's plan from Henry? The entire lack of Abe's first fiancee? What?!) One could argue that some of those were intended at making the movie within acceptable length and not bore the audience, but one usually doesn't do that at the expense of the movie being entirely too dumb.

3- Cinematography: Now, clearly I'm not well-versed in how one makes a movie, or what goes into CGI design and all that, so I'm discussing this from the POV of someone who's simply seen a lot of movies and a shitload of CGI (good, acceptable, and eye-gouge-worthy). The movie is largely well-shot, but the action scenes are mostly godawful, which surprised me seeing as Bekmambetov directed this. As I told a friend, it all lacked a certain oomph that usually accentuates the action. You see Abe swinging his fancy axe around, slicing heads and various limbs, and I didn't even wince once.

This is not violence desensitization (I still cringe at the Saw movies), it is a failure to make the action matter to the audience. I see a well-choreographed scene where Abe goes through an entire mansion-full of vampires, slicing people open left, right and center, and all my brain's saying 'Wow, this is like watching an elaborate dancing performance.' There is no impact whatsoever. (The train scene near the end of the movie is quite good. It fails to absolve the entire movie, however.)

4 - Shattering the suspension of disbelief: Like I mentioned earlier, the book managed to do all this crazy stuff without making you roll your eyes at the inherent silliness of making Honest Abe hunt vampires. I'd hoped the movie do the same.

Bekmambetov has a vampire pick up a horse by the hooves, pirouette and throw it at Abe, who takes it square in the chest, gets up as if nothing has happened, and actually gets on the horse (same one or different, I can't recall really) and gives chase.

What the fuck.

Abraham Lincoln is never portrayed in the book as anything more than a gigantic superbly-trained man who has the necessary skills to fight those creatures. Bekmambetov turns him into Superman, just for the heck of it.

Perhaps it's silly of me to have expected the director of Night Watch and Wanted to treat this movie in a different manner, but when you see that scene, any chances you might've had of even slightly treating this as a normal action movie vanish into the air. It crashes and burns, right into silly parody.

5 -

....sorry....just...WHY THE HORSE? WHY? Sigh.


Anyways, like I mentioned at the beginning, this movie should be avoided like the devil. If you've read the book, you'll hate everything about it, and if you haven't, you'll feel like someone's making fun of you all through the movie, and that's never fun. I really would be hard-pressed to find anyone who can actually, truly enjoy this train-wreck. 

Sorry, Abe.

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