As a lover of nearly all things Abraham Lincoln, I must admit that I was pretty excited when they announced an adaptation to Seth Grahame-Smith‘s historical fiction mash-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and even more excited when I found out that he was the one doing the adaptation. I read the book late last year and was pleasantly surprised by it, being that I am fairly capable at distancing fiction from reality and could remove myself from the real world and enjoy the story. Unfortunately, many folks that have “professionally” review the movie don’t seem to be able to do so and found numerous problems with the movie, which I will not quibble with here. Nevertheless, I found the movie to be a faithful adaptation of the book and fairly enjoyable, though I do have some issues with it, which I will cover in slightly more detail later.
I think you have to be completely ignorant to not know at least something about Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the best president this country has ever known. Most people know that he was born in the frontier west in early 19th century America, and that the death of his mother had a profound impact on him as a boy. Others also know of his marriage to Mary Todd and the tragedy they felt in losing three of their four children during the marriage. Finally, only the assassination of John F. Kennedy is more readily known than the loss of Abraham Lincoln at the pistol of John Wilkes Booth. Perhaps no president has been written about more than Lincoln, and it is using a lot of the well-known parts of his life that allowed Grahame-Smith to write his book in the first place.
The movie opens with young Lincoln in Kentucky, witnessing the sale of some slaves to some folks. The slaves happen to be the parents of his friend Will, so li’l Abe intervenes when his friend is taken to whip. When the man selling the slaves in turn fires his father, thus negating Thomas Lincoln‘s ability to repay a loan, shit starts to get bad for for the Lincolns, including the death of his mother at the hands of vampires. Her death is blamed on a mystery ailment called “milk sickness,” but Abe knows better. He sees the vampire kill his mother and vows revenge on Jack Barts, the man who fired his father and killed his mother. It was just going to take a while.
Fast forward to an older Lincoln filling himself with some liquid courage prior to confronting Barts. The encounter doesn’t go as planned, as Barts is in fact a vampire, and Lincoln barely escapes with his life. Fortunately, Henry Sturgess is there to nurse him back to health, and decides to train Abe in the fine art of killing vampires. A training montage later, and Abe is ready to kill some vampires, and the graves start piling up. He attracts the attention of Adam, the old ass vampire that is responsible for all of the vampires.* They lure him to a trap, which he survives, but he gives up killing vampires in pursuit of politics, as slavery is really all about giving the wealthy plantation owners of the South, who all happen to be vampires, plenty of blood. Lincoln turns to politics to stop the vampires instead of slaughter, plus he has a hot new wife that he should be focusing on since vampire hunting can be pretty dangerous.
*Get it? His name is Adam because he’s the first one, much like Adam and Eve. LOL
Another flash forward to the Lincoln White House. The Civil War is raging, primarily over slavery. Lincoln is the bearded guy we all know and love, and his silver-tipped axe has been stored away never to be used again. Will encourages the Emancipation Proclamation, which in turn pisses off all the vampires. Adam’s queen bee Vadoma somehow gets a place in the Lincoln household and does something to get Lincoln’s attention, prompting him to pick up the axe again. After a horrible defeat at Gettysburg, Lincoln decides the only way to kill the vampires in the Confederate Army is with silver, and sets out to make a bunch of silver weapons. Victory is had after a bit of switcheroo, and the Lincolns live happily ever after… until the fateful night at Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln is killed off-screen and I almost start crying again.
Again, the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation to the feel of the book. I have to take another look at the book to see how well it really lines up, but I was entertained. I thought the casting was done well enough, with Benjamin Walker playing a half-decent Lincoln. I was thoroughly pleased by the casting of Mary Elizabeth Winsted as Mary Todd Lincoln. You may remember her as Ramona Flowers in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” if you saw that super awesome movie. She might be my new celebrity crush because of this movie. Dominic Cooper was also well-cast as Henry Sturgess, and Rufus Sewell was a great Adam. Director Timur Bekmambetov did a decent job with what he was given, and a lot of the action sequences were well done.
As for what I didn’t really like, the first thing that jumped out at me was the post-production addition of 3D. I don’t understand why this continues to be done. If you are going to make a 3D movie, it should be shot from day one as such. Adding it later diminished the effect, making the scenes not full of vampire fights kind of lame. The vampires themselves were also done poorly in my opinion, but at least they didn’t sparkle in the sunlight. Otherwise, I thought it was a decent movie. I’m not going to complain about the historical inaccuracies; the movie is a huge historical inaccuracy unless you truly think that Abraham Lincoln slayed vampires in his spare time. For the historically accurate Lincoln movie, we have “Lincoln” from Steven Spielberg later this year.
As I said immediately after watching the movie, it was probably the best movie that I have seen so far this year. It will not be on any critics year-end “Best of” lists, but it was an enjoyable movie to watch, which is what you need from a movie every now and again. I’m sure that it will be surpassed by numerous other movies as the year goes on, but that remains to be seen. Grab some popcorn and spend two hours watching our 16th president be a bad ass and I don’t think you will be disappointed. Just be sure to invite me if you head off to see it, because I definitely want to see it again.
Until next time…
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