Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter [Blu-Ray]
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Remakes, remixes and, maybe most of all, mash-ups are getting attention at previously unprecedented levels. The Internet has given us endless examples, copyright be damned, but it's the savvier companies that realize there's money to be made. Look no further than this summer's The Avengers or the success of the weekly song mash-ups on Glee for proof that audiences love to see worlds collide — a high-potency evolution of entertainment as "the same, but different." Seth Grahame-Smith tapped the zeitgeist early on when he reworked a Jane Austen novel in 2009 to create Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The book went on to become a New York Times bestseller, spawning inevitable sequels and cross-platform adaptations. But Grahame-Smith left those to other writers while he moved on to a different project: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The rights for both films were quickly scooped up, but Abraham Lincoln breezed through (or skipped) development to arrive in theatres first. The allure of Grahame-Smith's novels can be found in their titles, both of which suggest a mix of camp and pedigree. Released now on DVD, Blu-Ray and, most tellingly, Blu-Ray 3D, it's clear that the film adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has gone for sheer spectacle. Graham-Smith, loosely adapting the script from his novel, seems keen to play along, centering the story on Abraham Lincoln as a young man rather than the older, iconic president people are familiar with — this film obviously hopes to be the first in a franchise. Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) is mentored by a streetwise man named Henry (Dominic Cooper) and learns too quickly how to channel his anger into implausible strength. As Lincoln proceeds on a mostly unfocussed crusade against vampires, the story ticks off various historical check boxes, such as meeting Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson). Lincoln's political career and feelings toward slavery are also touched upon but never tie into what should be a conflicted morality, as he simultaneously pursues murdering vampires. In the ample supplementary features included on the Blu-Ray, the filmmakers sound like they're discussing a different movie altogether. Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) says the film is about the emotions between the characters, whereas in actuality what chemistry the actors may have had is lost in the ocean of CGI they struggle to stay afloat in. Grahame-Smith boats that the film aims to be unapologetically ridiculous, either unaware of, or else compensating for, the disappointingly dry final product. This film was never intended to stand against Steven Spielberg's upcoming Lincoln, but audiences would do better to see either that or the Asylum's Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, depending on their tastes. As functional as it is, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn't campy enough to qualify as a B-movie, but better action, drama and history can also be found elsewhere. A good mash-up not only combines familiar elements, but uses them to complement each other and create new surprises. In trying to please everyone, however, this particular take on Lincoln doesn't achieve much at all.
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