Sunday, June 24, 2012

Movie Review - Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter

  When I was a youngster, the only vampire around was Dracula. Dracula could be anything from an indestructible demon that killed people to drink their blood and then turned into a bat to fly away to a complete buffoon who could be outwitted by Abbot and Costello. There was a show called Dark Shadows that was on TV after school for a year or two that featured Barnabas Collins as a vampire. Somewhere between then and now, not only have vampires gotten cool, they’ve become heartthrobs thanks to something called the Twilight series. I’ve never seen any of the movies or read any of the books but these vampires are young, handsome, and on the covers of the magazines that are designed to be sold to teenage girls. There are also plenty of TV shows featuring vampires like the ‘Vampire Diaries’ and ‘True Blood’.

  I’m not a big vampire fan, but the TV commercials showing Abe Lincoln lopping vampires in half with a big axe looked pretty cool so Kathy, Matt, and I went to see ‘Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter’ on Friday night. The movie was taken from a book (which I hadn’t read), but this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen Lincoln in a surreal environment. In the original Star Trek TV show, Lincoln is transported to the Enterprise to join forces with Kirk, Spock and Surak (a legendary Vulcan) to battle Genghis Khan and other intergalactic bad guys for the amusement of the an all-powerful alien being that wants to understand about good and evil. Lincoln didn’t make it to the end of that episode alive it’s a big step up from battling vampires to Kahless the Klingon and Yarnek of Excalbia.

  The movie tells the life of Abe Lincoln as a tortured soul not unlike the Batman. As a child, he sees his mother attacked and devotes his early life to gaining vengeance on his mother’s killer. When he finally confronts and shoots his mother’s killer, he finds to his shock that he is face to face with a vampire. Lincoln is saved by a vampire hunter named Henry Sturges, who trains Lincoln physically and mentally to be a vampire hunter and even equips him with a silver tipped axe.

  The rest of the movie follows like an autobiography of Lincoln’s life, except that everything he does is motivated by his quest to kill vampires. He starts out by hunting down a select few vampires chosen by his mentor, but then puts down his axe and enters politics when he discovers that the slave trade in the Confederate States is run by the vampires in order to keep them supplied with a steady supply of blood. This turns out to be the ‘real’ reason behind the Civil War. The vampires strike back by killing Lincoln’s son and even go to war for the Confederacy at the battle of Gettysburg. The movie culminates with Lincoln taking his silver axe out of mothballs, devising a plan to supply the Union troops with silver weapons to defeat the vampires at Gettysburg, the head vampire (Adam)’s couterplan to sabotage the supply and an epic battle between the two aboard a runaway train hurtling across a massive bridge that has been set on fire by the vampires.

  The movie is very believable (as long as you can accept the whole vampire thing). Benjamin Walker was a great Abraham Lincoln. He reminded me a lot of Liam Neeson and looked fit enough to be able to go a few rounds with some vampires and seemed at least a foot taller than everyone else in the movie. He gave the character the right mix of being clumsy in social settings and a leader in crisis situations. The signature fight scene on the train was very well done, even though the battle scenes tended to get a bit gory with countless vampire heads being chopped off. One thing I especially liked about the movie was the lack of profanity. I’m sure it took a lot of restraint on the part of the director to not have Abe Lincoln drop the f-word every so often. All in all, it was an entertaining movie if you can deal with all the gore.

  One thing I noticed was that all the vampires were white. Since the vampires were feasting on the slaves’ blood and you get to be a vampire by being bitten by one, I would have thought that there would be at least a few African-American vampires, possibly even fighting on the union side. I wonder if there will be any public outcry to include some diversity amongst vampires for the sequel just like Star Trek : Voyager debuted a non-white Vulcan and Billy Dee Williams became the first non-white biped humanoid of color in the Star Wars series after protests.

  This is the first movie I can remember that has used the idea of the President as ‘action hero’. Harrison Ford in ‘Air Force One’ was sort of an action hero when he saved his plane and crew from terrorists, but he was more of a normal man in an abnormal situation, not a vampire hunter trained to fight in pitch dark and wield a combination axe/single load shotgun in ninja style like Lincoln and the President in ‘Independence Day’ just happened to be a fighter pilot, but otherwise had no paranormal abilities. Now that this barrier has been broken, I’m wondering who will be the next action hero President. I’m sure that some sort of story could be crafted about Ronald Reagan (the original Hollywood president), gaining super strength or some other power in a freak accident, breaking into the Iranian embassy before the 1980 election and freeing the hostages, but allowing the Ayatollah to keep them until after the election so he could win and become president. Since Batman will be battling a super-villain called Bain in the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ next month and the republican nominee Mitt Romney is coming under criticism for working for a company called Bain, maybe a Democratic PAC can create a production of ‘Barack Obama : Corporate Raider Hunter’ coming soon to a theatre near you.