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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D(2012)
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them.
For more about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D and the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray release, see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on October 25, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Robin McLeavy, Marton Csokas
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
» See full cast & crew
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray Review
Honest Abe slays in so-so horror-meets-history mashup.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 25, 2012
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Read that again: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Now, what do you expect? A cinematic civics lesson? A solemn Glory-style war epic? A gravely faithful biopic of America's bearded, slave-freeing 16th president? Yeah, I didn't think so. The title suggests something entirely different—gory, ax-swinging violence, campy horror-meets-history revisionism, and a wink-wink take on good ol' 6'4" Honest Abe, the POTUS who's come closest to approaching mythic, tall-tale status in our national consciousness. No one's going to confuse Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with the upcoming Steven Spielberg Lincoln drama, and complaining that the film isn't "historically accurate enough" totally misses the point, akin to dismissing 300 because it grossly distorts the real Battle of Thermopylae.
Hold onto your war horses, though. I'm no Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter apologist. There are plenty of other criticisms that can be leveled at the film, criticisms that stem from the disconnect between what the over-the-top title promises and what the final finished product actually delivers. If I had to boil it down to one issue, it's that the movie—which was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of the novel it's based on—doesn't go far enough into history-overturning, vamp-slaying ridiculousness. It mistakenly tries to retain some semblance of seriousness, when it probably should've gone all-out absurd.
Grahame-Smith and director Timur Bekmambetov approach the film like a comic book superhero movie of sorts, complete with a vengeance-inspired origin story. We open in 1818, when a boyhood Abraham—later to be played by young Liam Neeson-lookalike Benjamin Walker—tries to stop his black best friend, William, from being sold into slavery. Plantation owner and secret vampire Jack Barts (Martin Csokas) doesn't take kindly to the intervention, firing Abe's dad and breaking into the family shack later that night to suck Abe's mom's blood. She wastes away and dies, and though Abe isn't sure exactly what he saw that night, he's committed to getting revenge by killing Barts.
He gets his chance years later, shooting Barts down by the docks, but the ghoul isn't phased by bullets and overpowers the terrified Mr. Lincoln. Thankfully, professional vampire tracker Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper, The Duchess) happens to be lurking nearby. He fights off Barts—who escapes into the night—and takes Lincoln in, offering to teach him the ways of vampire hunting. Cue the obligatory training montage, in which our lanky hero learns ax-based martial arts and fells a tall oak in a single chop. Lincoln heads off to Springfield, Illinois with Sturges' blessing, gets a job working for shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), and—when he isn't studying law—moonlights as a killer of bloodsuckers, taking out blacksmiths and pastors and pharmacists, hoping to one day track down his lifelong nemesis.
The rest of the relentless and overlong film gives us an abbreviated version of Lincoln's life—his wooing of Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), his political rise to power, the death of his son, the start of the Civil War—with the expected addendum that machinating vampires play an influential behind-the-scenes part in all of these events. Barts is merely an underling, and the real threat is revealed to be Adam (Rufus Sewell)—the ancient progenitor of North America's vampires—who lives on a New Orleans plantation with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson), and who has pledged his allegiance to the president of the Confederacy, offering his immortal minions as foot soldiers for the South. Why? Because...duh...vampires use slaves for food. (This makes sense—let's face it—but the film feels uncomfortably exploitive and almost nonchalant about the issue of slavery.) To save the nation, Lincoln has to round up all the silver his armies can muster and transport it to Gettysburg, so Union troops can melt it down and use it as ammo against the literal legions of the undead.
If this sounds at all thrilling, let me temper your expectations. The film has a fatally bad case of split-tonality disorder. On one side, Benjamin Walker's meekly inert performance earnestly tries to honor the stoic dignity and grace of the iconic president who reunited a nation; on the other, this is supposed to be Abraham Lincoln: Mother-Avenging Vampire Hunter. If any film screams for kitschy comedy and ironic winking and gratuitous arterial spurts of gore, it's this one! This is a movie that needs a Bruce Campbell, yukking it up with an oversized ax, an off-kilter top-hat, and a glued- on beard. It needs an ass-kicking, one-liner-spewing Lincoln with a maniacal fire in his eyes. It needs Deal Alive-levels of blood-spilling, taking it from gross to cover your eyes gross to hilarious gross. Instead, Vampire Hunter is so damningly middle-of-the-road. Lukewarm. Safe. Big budget glossy. CGI-addled. Audience-tested and committee-approved. Like Snakes on a Plane, it simply doesn't live up to the potential of its wacky, double-take-inducing title.
If you've seen any of Timur Bekmambetov's other films—Wanted, Night Watch, Day Watch—you know the Russian director has an eye for stylized action sequences, of which Vampire Hunter has more than a few. There's a fast-paced duke-out atop a steaming locomotive. An Abe-versus-multiple-vamps brawl in a plantation manor. Even a stampede chase sequence, where horses are alternately ridden and used as weapons. The fight choreography is impressively fluid at times, if you can get past the herky-jerky editing, which ramps up and slows down the footage with hyperactive abandon, but this is all empty spectacle, meant to distract us from the fact that the film is essentially riffing on a single joke—Abe slaying vampires with an ax—that grows increasingly stale over the 105-minute runtime. You might be passably entertained if you're okay with check-your-brain-at-the-ticket-counter moviemaking, but those hoping for genuinely thrilling historical revisionism will be underwhelmed.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a tricky title to judge, picture quality-wise, and that's before we even get to talking about the post- production 3D conversion. The film was shot predominantly on 35mm, with mixed in footage from the digital Arri Alexa high definition camera and the Phantom Flex, a high-speed system for slow-motion shots. The varied sources aren't an issue, and though the picture is quite grainy most of the time, at least 20th Century Fox hasn't tried to smear away the noise with DNR. That said, the image does have a somewhat unnatural and distinctly "processed" look that's simply too stylized for its own good. The color grading often has the excessive quality of an over-filtered Instagram photo, with blooming highlights that give people and objects a weird glow, and antiqued hues—see Henry's green and red-toned flashback scene—that want to evoke era- appropriate photography but just look cheap and fake and digitized. While the image is never as sharp as Lincoln's trusty ax—the grain and filtering take their toll on overall clarity—there's more than sufficient fine detail here, especially in closeups. Pixel-peepers will notice some overt softness, but if you're sitting at a normal viewing distance, this isn't an issue. Neither are there any encode or compression problems. I have no doubt that the Blu-ray is faithful to the filmmakers' intents, but let's just say that some of the choices made regarding the look of the film are a bit gaudy.
There is some good news; although the film wasn't natively shot in 3D, the conversion is actually pretty successful. Yes, there are some flat-ish shots without much apparent depth, and sure, there are times when foreground objects look a little like cardboard cutouts, but for the most part, the picture has a satisfying sense of dimensionality. Given the subject matter, you can expect a few gimmicky jump-out-of-the-screen-type shots—a whip flying toward our faces, a bullet emerging from a pistol barrel, etc.—but most of the time we're looking into the window of the screen. I was really impressed by the look of atmospherics—for the lack of a better word—from drifting embers and swirling clouds of dust to heavy rain and floating motes carried about on sunbeams. The picture definitely has a "living" quality. And, yep, there are some showpiece shots too, particularly in the horse stampede and Gettysburg battle sequence. Don't turn your nose up at Vampire Hunter just because it wasn't shot with an honest-to-goodness 3D rig; the added-in-post dimensionality here works surprisingly well.
Note that all screenshots in this review are from the 2D version.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
How's the audio? Well, I'm glad you axed. (Shoot me now.) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter grips up on Blu-ray with a brutal lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. This thing delivers some seriously heavy blows. The mix starts with near-constant ambience—frogs and insects, wind and pouring rain, the clamor of battle—and then adds pinpoint directional sounds and fluid cross-channel motions. Boots on creaking wooden floorboards behind us. Lincoln's ax swinging through the rears. Horse hooves beating the dusty earth in all directions. Debris shooting out and settling after an explosion. Bullets whistling between speakers and potent cannon fire. Vampiric cackles and groans. A train chugging madly across the landscape. It's all heavy-duty, carefully engineered sonic stuff, with great clarity and plenty of dynamic punch. Don't sit a drink on top of your subwoofer, because the massive waves of bass will rattle it right off in no time. X-Men: First Class composer Henry Jackman's score riffs with anachronistic guitars and tense, amped up orchestral elements, and it too sounds beefy and clear and clean. Through it all, dialogue is balanced and easy to understand. Subtitle and dub options are plentiful; see above for details.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Who'd've thought a film called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could be so dull and routine? This tepid exercise in injecting the supernatural into the historical delivers the usual blockbuster action sequences—think a period-piece version of the Underworld films—but fails to fully exploit the promise of its kooky central premise. The film is simply too straight-faced for its own good. (Hypothetically, I like to imagine Ben Franklin: Succubus Slayer would've made a better film.) Vampire Hunter makes a solid turn on Blu-ray, with a strong-if-overstylized picture and killer sound, but I'd advise a rental over a purchase.
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