wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
The novel that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is based on was a best-selling success for quite a while. Maybe it’s an easier read than watch, but a movie that discusses Abraham Lincoln’s fictional dual life as a closet vampire hunter is bizarre and not Tim Burton bizarre but confusing bizarre. The visuals, costumes and performances allow you to at least sit through the film and lend yourself as a viewer. Apart from that, the film has nothing really going for it.Read more
Remember the time when a Tim Burton movie surpassed your expectations on its levels of eccentricity (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands)? Well you can mourn those days, because it doesn’t look like they’re coming back.
Earlier this year he made Dark Shadows, which was quite the dud compared to his earlier films, and therefore I wasn’t expecting too much from his co-production with Timur Beckmambetov (of Wanted fame) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The title itself is rather appalling, to imagine the United States’ 16th president as a closet Vampire Hunter. As if we haven’t already had an overload of vampires.
It’s not a biopic of Abraham Lincoln so you can scratch that off. In this version surrounding the president (adapted from a bestselling novel written by Seth Grahame-Smith), a young Lincoln witnesses the death of his mother as a result of befriending an African-American boy (a prevalent practice back in the day).
The film moves onto Lincoln’s dual life – as he falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and eventually enters politics, but the film focuses on his nocturnal activities and adventures, consisting a slasher, VFX heavy second half that includes fictitious recreations of American History as well.
While the visuals are quite gripping with its dark greys and even darker crimsons, the two halves of the film seem like separate movies. Not knowing which aspect of Lincoln’s life to focus. The narrative is disconnected and seems to focus more on the visual appeal than the story at hand.
Benjamin Walker as Lincoln is pretty convincing, and for interrupted brief moments you do believe that a world where Lincoln was a vampire hunter could exist. What helps are the elaborate set designs, costumes and background score, which allow the suspension of disbelief to last a while.
You are pulled out of it however, with the confused narrative. The cuts between an enraged axe-wielding Lincoln and a historically relevant Lincoln are haphazard. You’re kept on your toes about the tone of the film.t partly presents itself as a dark, bloody fantasy film and partly as a biopic offering silly, almost comical alternatives to American History.
What you must give Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter credit for, is that it is brilliantly shot. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel uses the frames to further the dark-palette visuals that merge well with the story.
While on one hand you have a confused narrative that doesn’t stay with you, the visuals and technical bits of the film will manage to get your attention, and it’s the only reason why you should watch it.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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