The wait is FINALLY over! One of my favorite fictional books of 2010 has been adapted and now for very first time…officially presented on the big screen in eye-popping 3-D, if you so choose. Hip, hip hooray! Of course, I’m talking about none other than Seth Grahame-Smith’s mashup novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a combination of two things that I love the most in life…history/historic figures and blood sucking/curdling vampires! How can you possibly go wrong with this combo subject matter? I’ll pause for a brief second. Good. I didn’t think I would hear any complaints. And by the way, anyone who is curious about the aforementioned literacy piece of work I referenced can read my full book review and learn all about it over here, but be warned…the rest of this review is going to focus solely on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…the 2012 Timur Bekmambetov action horror film.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter first became a big screen reality when both Tim Burton and Bekmambetov joined forces to purchase and develop the film rights completely out of their own pockets, as lore dictates. Lucky bastards! But I can’t blame them either. If I had the funds, I would have been all over this property too. Even better, the book’s author, Seth Grahame-Smith, was hired to pen the screenplay. How awesome is that? To me, it’s really all about peace of mind. Months later, Fox beat other studios in a bidding war for rights to the film. Again, how can you not want a piece of this property? I digress. Moving on…
In January 2011, Bekmambetov was officially attached as the film’s director and actor Benjamin Walker beat out a handful of stars to gain the coveted role of our nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. A month later, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead also became attached to the picture. And then the sh1t got real and we were on as filming commenced in March down in Louisiana with a rumored budget of only 70 million. I say 70 million dollars like it’s nothing, but let’s face it, in these days and age with big summer blockbusters 70 million really isn’t that much. Props to the filmmakers!
But here’s the kicker folks, I might as well get this over with and just admit it. I hated it. I didn’t hate it because it was a bad movie, because that’s not the case (it is generic though). I hated it because it was nothing at all like the book I fell in love with so very much. Everything I loved about the book was mysteriously nowhere to be found in this feature presentation. From the book’s humble beginning to its riveting ending, everything that was memorable and pleasurable to me was completely dismissed and seemingly overlooked/re-worked. I have one word. Boo! I will say this though. The one saving grace is that the movie still managed to end on a bad a$$ last shot, but still…the magic and mystique of the book’s ending was nowhere to be found. I realize how hard it must be to condense a full-blown lengthy novel down to a 2-hour screenplay, but come on! This was a whole new story by the same flipping author. At least it felt like that to me.
To be even more brutally honest, I did not care for Walker’s acting chops. He got the innocence part down, but truly never won me over in the aggression scale department until he took the oath of office, while on the other hand, Cooper owned every scene he was in like he usually does. And for the record, this has to be the most rushed Act 1 I have seen in a long long time with hardly any time for crucial character development. Unfortunately, I felt no attachment to Lincoln. Quite simply, it all went down a little something like this. Here’s an axe. Learn how to swing it with all your hate young padawan. Good! You can cut down a tree now! You are now ready to go out, hunt down and kill vampires. Of course I’m being facetious, but I’m disgruntled because it was nothing like the book and once again I was crushed with my over-the-top high expectations I had for this feature. With that being said, I’m not looking forward at all to the big screen adaptation of Grahame-Smith’s Unholy Night as I mentioned in my book review here. Perhaps it will help that I did not read the book multiple times like I did Vampire Hunter, but even better…perhaps Grahame-Smith should just stick to writing books, that much at least he excels at.
So for what it’s worth, trying my best to be unbiased here, the secret onscreen life of our 16th president is fairly entertaining schlock for the lay moviegoer. I would put it on the level of a Resident Evil flick, not in style or substance, but just mindless fun, depending of course on your definition of fun. Watching Abraham Lincoln’s relentless quench for vengeance over the death of his mother at the hands of a vamp is definitely not the worst way you can spend your time, but I could easily think of better ones. Besides the lack of borrowing from the 2010 novelization and Walker’s acting chops, I think the thing that got to me the most was the over-stylization of the picture. If you can’t handle Ghost Rider or Jonah Hex-like visuals, then this isn’t the picture for you and I encourage you to stay very far away. However, they did do justice to the vampires. Think 30 Days of Night style. I have to give credit where deserved and in my opinion, they were a bit Alienesque in their appearance when they showed their fangs.
All in all, it was very difficult to see a movie so botched up and bastardized on the big screen when the source material was ripe and ready for the picking. How could they have messed it up? Well in my opinion, they did big time. I was ready to walk out 15 minutes into the feature, but I stuck with it. I’ll review it when it comes out on Blu-ray, but I’ll never invest in it. It’s my opinion that Mr. Grahame-Smith should just stick with writing books. I don’t know if I can ever get my head around my utter disappointment, being it was my second most anticipated film of the year. Avengers offered 100 times more stimulation than this. It’s just a God-awful shame. I can only recommend this for fans of vampire lore only. All book lovers of the 2010 novelization…STAY VERY FAR AWAY.
P.S. For any Linkin Park fan out there…if you are interested, a new track plays from their upcoming album next Tuesday as the credits begin to roll. I did not waste my time staying after the credits so I don’t know and don’t care if anything transpired after them.