July 5, 2012
This movie's poster came out quite early on this year, and I was really very intrigued by it. The title and concept are really so far-out-of- this-world original, I can't wait to see how this story would unfold. After a long wait, how timely was it that a movie about a great American president(albeit an action-horror-fantasy one) would be shown right on the 4th of July where I am? Cool, huh?
The film opens with Abraham Lincoln on a voice-over talking about how History prefers legends to men, then flashes back to his childhood when young Abe witnesses his mother being killed by what seemed to be a vampire. The desire to seek vengeance on the ghoulish murderer would carry him over the next years as the child grew up. After a botched attempt, he meets a vampire-killer named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who trains him in the killing craft using his weapon of choice, the axe.
From there, this fantastic back story would then intertwine with more historically-familiar events we knew about Abe Lincoln, like his marriage to Mary Todd, his rise to the Presidency, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, the Gettysburg Address and his fateful date at the theater. This is practically everything the layman knows about Abe Lincoln. Even viewers with only a passing knowledge of American history can readily relate. You simply have to watch to see how they dovetail the fantasy parts into the history parts.
I must say that this movie more than lives up to the high expectations I had of it. OK, the stylized violence may not sit well with all audiences, but for me everything just fit in so well. The writing by the book's author himself, Seth Grahame-Smith, was excellent. I really congratulate him for his awesomely radical idea. It was so crazy it just had to work! The story treatment by the director Timur Bekmambetov had just the right touch of tongue-in-cheek humor to balance out the gore and make the whole thing work without being overly cheesy (like the "Twilight" films, anyone?). I am not surprised to see Tim Burton's name as a producer, given the very quirky and macabre subject matter.
This was a very technically superior film. The camerawork and editing was breathtaking! I have never seen scenes like that fight atop the stampeding horses, or those sieges at Gettysburg, among so many other visionary scenes executions throughout the film. Those were really amazingly triumphant visual effects! The cast and crew have succeeded to make a bona-fide American hero even larger-than-life and more noble than he was already known for.
As far as the actors are concerned, there were no really big stars here. Only Dominic Cooper was the familiar face, and he did really well as Abe's mentor Henry. At the start I had a small problem with the lead star Benjamin Walker as I did not really believe him to be Abraham Lincoln as a young man. He simply did not seem correct as the young Abe the way he looked and acted. This situation was of course corrected when the wonders of make-up came in when he was already President. I really believe the Make-Up of this movie deserves an Oscar nomination at least as it really transformed Walker into the Abraham Lincoln we all expected. This was my one minor gripe about the film although later in my overall appreciation of the movie, Walker's seeming physical disconnect as Lincoln did not really matter after all in the end.
I highly recommend this movie to vampire fans and history fans alike. As odd as that combination is, I am pretty sure there are plenty of us out there.