Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Hack, Hacky & Hackneyed


Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay & novel)

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead


Release date: June 22nd, 2012

Distributor: 20th Century Fox 

Country: USA

Running time: 105 minutes


 

2½/5

Best part: The action sequences.

Worst part: The hammy villains.

The 16th President of the United States was far from the bearded profit and liberator of The Union as he is known today. This is what Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is presenting at least, as this bland, derivative actioner fails to do justice to either Honest Abe or even the concept of genre-hybridity.

Benjamin Walker.

A timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s life is presented over this narrated ‘dear diary’ type of story. A vengeful Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) is taken in by determined mentor Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), to train  him in the art of war with the un-dead. Lincoln has murder engraved on his ideology of existence and leaves him cold to the prospects of humanity. However his stone-like resolve cures his sins and leads him to the concept of unity within a civil war-torn land. His Presidency then becomes dependent on the north’s victory over the south and the freedom of slaves from their blood thirsty rulers. With a screenplay by the novel’s author Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter scarcely surpasses the stupidity of its strange concept.

 

Dominic Cooper.

Dominic Cooper.

Choosing to side with visceral thrill over a connection to this beloved hero of US history, this contrived story skims over major plot points to become a bizarre collaboration of Blade and Amistad. Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), a mimic of Guy Richie without the comic edge, clearly illustrates a lack of care with the thematic or narrative importance of this genre mash-up. A lack of believable character interaction and a large timeline skipping hastily through history leaves only clunky flashbacks and awkward scenes of exposition between every intense action set piece. The slight characters are aided greatly however by charismatic performances from this generally young cast. Newcomer Walker, essentially a younger-looking Liam Neeson, provides the inner strength and agility needed for his pivotal role as Lincoln. Dominic Cooper plays his Robert Downey, Jr.-like bravado up to a new level as Lincoln’s scorned mentor. While Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anthony Mackie are left stranded, given a sore lack of development as important allies in Lincoln’s story.

“A guy only gets that drunk when he wants to kiss a girl or kill a man. So which is it?” (Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).

Rufus Sewell.

Rufus Sewell.

Having already successfully created violent vampire stories with his breakout hits Nightwatch and Daywatch,  Bekmanbetov continues his unoriginal and abrasive visual style here. Despite several thrilling action set pieces scattered throughout, opportunities for unique ideas are wasted by his penchant for quick cuts and repetitive slo-mo. A martial arts style of axe-wielding is introduced with beautiful effect, yet is sadly lost in the action scenes with several being shot too close into each axe-swing, sepia tone setting and blood splatter. The mythology of vampire killing is created and continually written over when convenient. A missed opportunity for sure, montages of Lincoln in training and combat with his trusty multi-purpose axe become rare clever points in this silly popcorn flick. The vampires themselves only slightly change the mythology of vampire lore. Leaving the Twilight  bloodsuckers in their sparkly midst, they’re an effective cross between the smarmy Eurotrash from Blade and the ravenous blood stained horde from 30 Days of Night. With an execution greater than similar big-budget shlock such as Jonah Hex and The league of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the film’s stupidity and constant plot and character flaws however leave it in the dust of last year’s polarising genre-hybrid Cowboys and Aliens.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has the ingredients of something special, yet its straight faced execution of silly material delivers a rushed adaptation of this unique spin on Lincoln’s historical relevance. If you are looking for an alluring and subversive cinematic take on history, stick with Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.

Verdict: A visceral vampire flick sorely lacking bite.

Dark Shadows Review – Bad, Bad Burton


Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith 

Stars: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz 


Release date: May 11th, 2012

Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures, Roadshow Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 113 minutes


 

2/5

Best part: Johnny Depp.

Worst part: The underdeveloped characters.

This tale from the crypt proves once and for all that Tim Burton has directorally run out of steam. His use of the same narrative tricks and visual motifs over and over again may please the die-hard Burton geeks, but non- believers may wish to steer clear of his latest white-faced, gothic adventure-comedy Dark Shadows.

Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp.

Based on the 1960/70s soap opera of the same name, the film begins in 1782 with the Collins’s; a wealthy family leaving Britain for the new world. Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is the bright son of the Collin’s family and their new fortunes in the newly built Collinsport, feeling so powerful he rejects the maid of the Collin’s estate, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who has a craving for both which-craft and revenge. She sickeningly murders his family and new love while cursing him forever as a vampire. Awakened in 1972 with a thirst for blood and a fresh start with his once great wealth, Barnabas must contend with the manor’s new inhabitants; his wacky ancestors. With a stuck up head of the family (Michelle Pfeiffer), a rebellious teen girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), a drunkard (Jackie Earle Haley), a hired live-in Psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) and a strange little boy (Guliver McGrath), Barnabus must deal with clashing personalities, a vastly different time in history, a sexy yet vindictive Collinsport hotshot and alluring new visitor to the manor, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote).

Eva Green.

Eva Green.

The real name of Dark Shadows should be ‘Tim Burton on auto-pilot’. Everything you think a Burton film involves is here in some sort of slithering form or another. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter show up in important roles, white, sour faces cover the characters in every frame, beautiful set and costume designs and one underused yet significant actor after another. With Burton’s recent slate of uninspiring and unnecessary remakes and interpretations such as Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he can now add this adaptation of the infamous gothic yet satirical soap opera to the list. The story problems stem from Burton’s blatant disinterest in the unfolding of beautiful yet scary events. Much like his other remakes, the story begins with a whisper of promise. The prologue illustrating Barnabas’ violent fall from uptown grace by dark forces, starts Dark Shadows off in a necessarily dark fashion. Soon after however, the film heads to the 1970’s, where one obvious joke on the styles and stereotypes of the 70s, and ironic vampire humour, rise from the grave.

“I have already prepared my counter-proposal. It reads thusly: You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” (Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp), Dark Shadows).

Michelle Pfeiffer.

Michelle Pfeiffer.

The hip soundtrack, featuring a blatantly pointless concert performance from Alice Cooper, rings throughout this fish-out-of-water tale, while clashing ideologies between Barnabus and the 70s itself surprisingly click in several of the slow dialogue moments. Several talented actors are forced into small, underused roles. Moretz, famous for her ass-kicking, potty mouth portrayal of Hit Girl, is creepily forced to grow up too fast in her portrayal of a slightly filthy teenager in the era of free love. Bonham Carter is only used to bring colour to many dull moments of character based dialogue. Aussie newcomer Heathcote is charming as the other new introduction to the Collin’s family, while Earle Haley is sadly wasted in a role entirely based on silly slapstick comedy, a real shame after his brilliant and sickeningly disturbed portrayal of the anti hero Rorschach in Watchmen. Burton’s typical auteur symbols do manage to keep the film together. Depp provides his usual charismatic and intensifying abilities as yet another indistinguishable and supernatural character from Burton’s disturbed mind. While Burton’s contrasting style of bright colours and soul sucking darkness in every scene portrays a fitting representation of this supernatural yarn. 

Burton, once considered the breakthrough auteur of Hollywood cinema, has transitioned from Edward Scissorhands to a parody of himself. With Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter holding him down, Dark Shadows solidifies his journey from greatness to messiness.

Verdict: A dull and convoluted fantasy flick.