Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper
Odd trends come and go in entertainment. There was a time for disaster films for example. Lately there’s a trend of taking literature classics and/or historic actual characters and placing them in otherworldly or supernatural situations. It’s an odd combination to say the least but done correctly it could be fairly entertaining. In the case of Abraham Lincoln the questions is asked; what if the true story of one of our nation’s most popular presidents is that he was a vampire hunter? The book was a huge success so a movie was inevitable. So is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a good movie? Is the trend worth while?
The story begins with a young Lincoln witnessing his mother murdered by, you guessed it bloodsuckers. Later on as he grows up jaded and traumatized by that memory an odd man crosses his path and introduces him to the true world of the vampire and makes a deal with him to train him to kill the creatures of the night and help him find the particular one responsible for the death of his family. I wonder now in retrospect after having seen the film in the theater and on blu-ray if the story would have been more successful had it been played purposefully for camp rather than as serious at is actually approached. The series attack on the story just makes the misses and terrible moments of melodrama laughable and when you laugh you may laugh more because you know it’s not supposed to be funny.
Perhaps the worst scene in the entire film is the main training scene where Linc’s new vampire killing sensei teaches him that he has incredible power in him and to use it he simply has to get mad. It’s not that Lincoln is particularly special though; he just needs someone to get him mad. When he literally decimates a giant tree the simultaneous nuggets of information offered during the conversation are embarrassingly bad. Now with that said Lincoln’s weapon of choice is a giant ax and his wielding of the weapon can make for some near iconic imagery. In the trailer there was a great scene of him literally bolting the ax like a gun and that scene was energetic and fun but seeing the entire scene in the film just fell flat.
The acting is pretty awful throughout the film, the special fx are mostly abysmal with the icing on that rotten cake being a ridiculous scenes with Lincoln chasing his prey by leaping across a huge stampede of digital horses. If you don’t have the money to execute a realistic looking effect and you’re going for serious making something look so bad just rips the viewer right from the film. Icing is usually the best part of the cake but in this cake I just got a stomach ache. I didn’t get to review the 3D version sadly because I think the additional gimmick may have made a few of the scenes a little more entertaining. I wanted this movie to be fun but it just isn’t. Overall the viewing experience is in a word, annoying.
The 1080p transfer here in a way looks too good. The detail is so high that some poor special fx and makeup stand out even more at home than they did in the theater. Colors pop and contrast looks great throughout. The only real issue with the film is that in some scenes the black levels get a little crushed causing some digital noise to mix with the fog and grit already in the source material. It’s not bad but it does stand out in comparison to the rest of the film.
This HD Master audio presentation has everything in it including the kitchen sink. There’s immersive sound fx that whoosh across the soundstage, there are good ambient sounds making the film feel immersive, and a good dynamic range with some use of the low end sounds. The score spreads out too getting plenty of breathing room across the entire soundstage. Most importantly dialogue is generally pretty clear throughout the film with only a few very minor exceptions. The voiceovers are weighty in the mix and definitely portray their importance.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The standard amaray case features a combo pack of blu-ray, DVD, and a digital Ultra Violet copy. The cover art is actually not bad but also not as iconic as some of the original theatrical posters were.
Seth Grahame-Smith, the screenwriter and author of the original book offers up a solo feature length audio commentary here. He discusses the differences between the film and the book and offers some good behind the scenes information. The problem is that he is by himself and he runs out of things to say in a few places just leaving dead spots. This commentary should have also featured the director discussing the story and film with the writer. That would have been a much more interested listen/viewing.
The true meat of the bonus features is an hour and fifteen minute long documentary that follows the film from the book to script, the locations, the action, and the fx. The documentary does feel a little to sound bite-ish at times but overall this documentary, broken into several parts is a pretty detailed look at the making of the film.
There’s a graphic novel giving a little backstory on how vampires found their way to America. This is actually kind of cool but would have been much better served as a download to a tablet or smartphone. Finally there’s also a music video and a trailer. The selection of bonus features is a bit of a miss just like the film. While the documentary is pretty good the commentary is a dud and there are no deleted scenes, not TV spots, and no photo galleries. The documentary is still better than the actual film though.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could have been a campy fun roller coaster ride or a serious film with clever integration of vampires into real history. The film tries to take itself serious and offer up that clever integration but it just doesn’t work. In the end I wish the movie would have tried the other direction.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
The Movie 3/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10