Watched Jun 22, 2012
Eric Forthun’s review:
To call Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a disappointment would be misleading, because that would imply I was expecting something better, or different, from the experience I just had. It was, honestly, the exact thing I expected to see, but maybe I just hoped I’d see it in a better condition, or in something that didn’t look this desolate and this boring. Granted, the movie has plenty of redeemable qualities, in particular Bekmambetov’s stylistic approach, but for the most part the overly serious tone makes for some mixed humor. Some things fall flat, others become almost unintentionally funny, and the character actions just start to not make sense at all in the second half. Characters betray one another, contradict one another in painfully obvious ways, and stuff just starts to not add up in any way, shape, or form. The action is fun for what it is, and the movie is what one would expect it to be, but it’s just not the type of film I guess I was meant to enjoy. I would say it squandered its potential, but that would imply it could’ve been better than this.
The one thing that immediately struck me, and made the experience begin on a sour note, was the visual palette of the film. It’s just so drab and gloomy, but not even in an atmospheric way; it just looks like it was shot using some type of filter that made the movie look old in a bad way. It’s difficult to describe, but once seen it’s evident that something went horribly wrong when the movie was put together, since they decided that, for some reason, this visual scheme was a good idea for people to watch. Even some really beautiful scenes filled with wonderful aerial shots and (supposedly) atmospheric landscapes are ruined by the fact that they look so brown and gray, with really no other colors being added here to make the movie pop. Nobody ever seems to dress in color either, and when they do it’s a light version of something that could’ve appeared better.
The acting all-around is fine. That’s not the problem here. It’s the characters that all of these actors play that really frustrates me, including Winstead’s, who says some really foolish things that just don’t work at all with what her character knows. The claims of her husband lying to her about his vampire hunting, and then hitting him and becoming angry over something tragic happening to a family member, doesn’t mesh with what we’ve seen before. He’s never lied to her; even the joke he played off of actually telling her would ring true when she found out, but for some reason that was considered lying. I’m not sure how that logic works. And then Lincoln takes a solid twenty minutes of screen time not realizing that the secret to killing the Confederate Army, led by vampires, is silver. He used a silver axe for so long, yet somehow looking at a fork at his dinner table brings that entire part of his life back to memory. I’m just not sure how any of that makes sense.
It’s not even that that’s frustrating. I just can’t handle the fact that the movie, while having fun with where its plot goes, just doesn’t seem to be any fun as a viewer. A lot of the action scenes, while handled effectively in portraying graphic violence in interesting ways, are too muddled and often hard to decipher. I know what’s happening, of course, but I don’t actually see it. When Lincoln occasionally swings to behead vampires, I don’t see anything other than his motion and the head flying off, and that can all be attributed to possibly poor special effects. Most of the ones on display here don’t work well, and don’t look all that good as blood splatters onto the screen, characters, and any other things that make the 3D feel necessary. I didn’t see the film in 3D, and I’m glad I didn’t: the movie’s dark, dreary-looking, and uses gimmicks, so I wouldn’t recommend it in that condition unless that’s your type of movie.
I don’t want to be accused of not having fun while watching the film, since there were moments when I wallowed in its absurdity. There’s a moment when he has a gleeful decapitation of a vampire using a shelf that I admired quite a bit, solely for its inventiveness. There’s even an excellent scene where Confederate soldiers charge at Union soldiers who fire away, only to realize that their regular ammunition isn’t doing anything against these creatures. The vampires disappear into thin air, and come back to kill them when they become visible. That’s another thing about the film that allows for things to be nonsensical: vampires have such a varied, non-set playbook that they can pretty much use any variation of what hurts them/their powers are and get away with it. Mirrors, silver, apparition, and too many other factors make for a world that we can’t really connect with, and it makes for something that doesn’t really inspire enjoyment in a viewer. It becomes tedious to follow all of these things, in addition to the nonsensicality of the characters and their actions, that even the action sequences, while occasionally impressive, don’t make the impact needed.
I desperately wanted to like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but there’s just not that much here to really grasp. The slavery issue is bashed over our heads, treated with far too much repetition to prove anything other than this being a movie with a “historical” perspective on this issue. Please: it’s a movie about a president who kills vampires to avenge his mother’s death. There’s really no other plot here, and no one is seeing this film in hopes of finding a solid structure. What I was looking for, and presumably most audiences were, was a sense of fun, or some silliness, to enjoy the experience. But its serious tone, while admirable, actually hurts the movie’s enjoyment. This film is nothing more than a great premise being delivered in a film that really has nowhere to go, nothing to say, and nothing but its mostly exciting set pieces.