Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer C
The best thing about Timur Bekmambetov’s new film, a hybrid of historical epic and monster-horror flick, is its seductive title, which promises much more than it delivers.
An original effort to combine the conventions of two different genres, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer,” has its share of entertaining moments, but this new spin on the Civil War seldom succeeds in integrating the action sequences into a coherent and involving narrative.
Part fantasy, part actioner, part historical chronicle, but not satisfying on any o these levels, “Abraham Lincoln” is a mildly engrossing, schizoid film, which strains severely with its tone, which variegates arbitrarily from the playful all the way to the dreary.
I guess director Tim Burton, who’s credited as producer here, could not help much Bekmambetov with his singular vision. It may or may not be a coincidence that the scribe of “Abraham Lincoln,” Seth Grahame-Smith, has also penned “Dark Shadows,” which was helmed by Burton.
The first sequences benefit from our curiosity about, and aura of mystery of, a tale that promises to explore the secret life of our sixteenth president, by relating a presumably untold facts that in some way had shaped our nation’s history and culture.
Aiming to bring a fresh voice to the vampire’s bloodthirsty lore, the movie teases us with a potentially playful question, what if Abraham Lincoln was also a skillful hunter of the undead.
As the title suggests, the narrative is based on intriguing juxtapositions and bizarre contrasts.
In broad, sporadically engaging paint brushes, we get a portrait of the leader and the seminal events that defined him and our nation, lugubriously interwoven with the immersive and visceral action of a classic vampire story.
In other words, the filmmakers aim to present Lincoln the Great Emancipator as the country’s first superhero of a mythological comic book. The text is based on duality motif: During the day, Lincoln is the esteemed President of the U.S., but at night, he changes persona and become a skillful (in fact, “the greatest”) vampire hunter. The dichotomy of being both ordinary and extraordinary, which is at the center of every superhero comic book, also defined this picture’s protagonist.
Seth Grahame-Smith, who adapted the screen his own best-selling novel of the same name, wants us to perceive Lincoln’s life story as an archetypal superhero origin story. A firm believer of blending genres, Grahame-Smith had previously written “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” another exploration of unexpected connection between disparate cultural entities.
To illustrate his strategy in the new picture, Grahame-Smith has constructed the character as one who had neither family name nor money. Lincoln’s mother, and everyone he loved, died when he was young. Bright, but lacking formal education, he goes on to become a legendary politician, who saves the nation from an impending disaster.
Russian filmmaker Bekmambetov had previously helmed the Angelina Jolie’s actioner “Wanted,” which was a smash hit. Before that movie, he showed his considerable technical skills in “Night Watch” and “Day Watch,” which were more successful in Europe than in the U.S.
When the story is right for him, Bekmambetov can ably show compelling and yet funny portraits of vampires, existing in a world that’s both familiar and fantastic. But in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer” he shows serious strains in finding the right mood, which is not sufficiently campy or funny.
Moreover, while some of the action set-pieces and images are visually striking, they do not suggest any sense of genuine peril or real danger, and you can lift some of them out of the narrative without any loss to the story in which they are mostly strenuously contained.
Leave a Reply
- Soderbergh Tribute: The Limey
- Almodovar Tribute: Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown
- Almodovar Tribute: Law of Desire
- Soderbergh Tribute: Out of Sight
- Almodovar Tribute: Matador
- 20 Feet from Stardom
- Almodovar Tribute: What Have I Done to Deserve It?
- Soderbergh Tribute: The Underneath
- Almodovar Tribute: Dark Habits
- Soderbergh Tribute: King of the Hill
- Man of Steel
- Almodovar Tribute: Labyrinth of Passion