VIENNA, VA June 27, 2012 Third in popularity at the movies this past weekend, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” continues to defy film critics, totally irritate historians, and delight moviegoers!
The Lincoln story predictably came in third behind Pixar’s “Brave” and “Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted,” both warm and fuzzy summer films for the kiddos. Vampire earned $16.5 million for the weekend. And the critics continue to seethe.
The story line written by Seth Grahame-Smith gets lost in places in the now 3-D film produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, and I would caution folks who want to see it to NOT read the book first.
If you do, you will be left wondering what happened in a variety of places.
For those who did not see the preview of it in February when it was released on the 203rd anniversary of the 16th president’s birth, the premise is very simple. A young Abe has watched his mother die of what was called milk sickness, but he sees a man bending over her neck before she dies.
As he grows older he learns the truth, that he had observed a vampire in the person of a local store owner, Barts, and he makes a vow to eradicate every vampire from the earth, and the movie takes off from there.
His meeting and falling in love with Nancy Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a beautiful courtship story, as his mentor, Henry Sturges, has told him that his quest to kill vampires will mean he will have no friends, and no family. Lincoln marries her anyway, and finally tells her the secret of his mission. Sturges, played by Dominic Cooper, is sort of an other-worldly good vampire, popping up at strange intervals, with extremely piercing eyes – his part is definitely a strange one and he plays it well.
The story moves quickly and sometimes very violently. Lincoln is always accompanied by his young black friend, Willie (played superbly by Anthony Mackie) who he rescued from harm from the same Barts, when they were both children. And Benjamin Walker plays Lincoln; his intensity and drive make him extremely believable in a campy sort of way.
Sturges, his good-vamp mentor, continuing to advise Abe to keep to his goal, while the young Lincoln continues on his dual pathway or killing vampires and becoming a respected politician.
The movie gleefully includes Lincolns famous debate with Stephen Douglas for the history fans!
Part of his Gettysburg Address at the National Cemetery is also portrayed, and one can almost feel the audience joining in with the familiar words – it is beautifully done and extremely moving.
As is typical in today’s movies, the fast paced story has its share of wild and quasi-violent scenes, though Lincoln’s prowess with his silver-tipped axe and its unfortunate victims is handled with a minimum of blood-letting, said blood being a dark, maroon shade of red and not the usual tomato juice treatment, which somehow makes it less upsetting.
Probably the two most exciting and fascinating scenes combine live real action and computer graphics. One is where Abe fights vampires in swashbuckling manner in the midst of wildly stampeding horses. Figures jump over and around the horses which in turn jump all around the combatants, as Lincoln subdues the vampire host and the horses trot off. (As always, we stayed through the lengthy credits to make sure the American Humane Association was on hand to assure the safety of the animals, and were glad to see its normal indicia acknowledging that.)
The other super-challenging great scene was on a train which was supposedly carrying crates of silver forks, collected from all the citizenry, to be attached to poles and used in fighting the vampires – it takes a silver stab to kill one and the locals responded to his plea for silver. His other good buddy, Joshua Speed of Kentucky (Jimmi Simpson) is with him and is playing the part of double-crosser who foils those who would overtake the supposed silver.
Simpson’s portrayal of Speed gives just the right soft faced, longhaired individual to play into some of the historical opinions of the friendship between him and Lincoln.
The silver-laden train is preparing to cross a high wooden trestle when the vampires set fire to it, and the falling of end cars and rushing to save the engine and as many cars as possible is a fantastically produced, suspense-laden segment which seems to go on forever, and is a true high point of the film.
The original music, by Henry Jackman, fits perfectly into the scenes and has some quite moving songs here and there. Rather than intruding on the story as some movie music is wont to do, this accents the film rather than distracting from it.
The credits are long and full and unending, as would be true with the story of this movie and its many component parts. We had to chuckle at the inclusion of a “teeth technician” as someone had to make sure all those blood dripping fangs were in good shape!
All in all, a good summer’s flick, not to be taken too seriously but entertaining to see. One remembers the numerous nits picked with scenes in “Gettysburg,” “Gods and Generals” and other supposedly truly historical films, and this one would give Doris Kearns Goodwin grist for her mill, if she took it seriously.
Don’t. Just enjoy something different! And so as not to be a spoiler, we will not provide the ending to the film, with this caveat –it’s different from the book.
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