Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Watcher: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

History is never quite the way we remember it, as the saying goes “history is written by the victors”. This is the root idea for the film based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel of the same name. Adapted into a screenplay by Grahame-Smith himself, but directed and co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov with the assistance of Tim Burton. 

Everything else you need to know about this movie is within its title - the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is a vampire hunter. But he doesn’t start out that way...

As a boy he witnesses the death of his mother at the hands of his father’s employer, whom they owe money to. Unbeknownst to him this man is actually a vampire. Abraham vows that one day he will avenge his mothers death. Years later - after his father's passing - that day finally arrives. Nervous and armed with a pistol, Abraham (Benjamin Walker) confronts his mothers killer, who then reveals his secret. This is a battle Abraham is not prepared for. Losing and about to die he is rescued by a man called Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper).

Sturgess takes Abraham back to his mansion to recover from his wounds. He then reveals that there are vampires in the world and that he is in the business of hunting them down. Abraham requests that he be trained so that he may succeed in his mission for revenge. Sturgess agrees on the proviso that Lincoln does exactly as he says and only kill when ordered to.

After an apparent 10 years of training with Sturgess he travels to Springfield, Illnois to begin his hunt. Abraham soon finds himself drawn to a young woman by the name of Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who at the time is being courted by Stephen A. Douglas (the brilliant Alan Tudyk). Even though he was warned by Sturgess to not form any sort of close relationships, Abraham falls head over heels for her (and strangely Douglas doesn’t ever seem to put up a fight for the love of his fiancée?!).

After some time of leading the double life of courting Mary and killing local vampires, he gains the attention of Adam (Rufus Sewell) the originator for all vampires in the US who decides that he needs to meet the infamous Mr Lincoln.

Abraham decides that there might be more than one way to skin a cat (or vamp!) and takes an interest in the world of politics to search for a more permanent solution to the slave trade issues as well as the vampires heavily involved in feeding upon them! He hangs up his axe and decides to leave hunting in order to focus on politics and eventually becomes President. As per history, his beliefs on slavery cause a divide in the states, the vampires side with the Confederacy which means Abraham has to come up with a plan to eliminate them as well as win the overall war.

Benjamin Walker looks a lot like a young Liam Neeson and pulls off the action with ease also. Dominic Cooper is massively charming and seems to be mostly channelling Robert Downey Jr which is perfect as he portrayed Tony Stark’s father in Captain America: The First Avenger.

The movie’s stylised colour palettes and specific 3D effects - like the vampire’s eyes and their vanishing powers - were enjoyable and added to the whole feel of the film. Unfortunately real life history tends to get in the way of all the vamp-slaying fun, luckily the film is very loosely based on the novel and doesn’t actually delve to much into the history of good ol' honest Abe.

I have never understood the recent fascination with culture mash-ups like this but I did find myself pleasantly surprised, it has some fun axe-tion sequences which do get a bit crazy later on but its a perfect popcorn movie for a Sunday afternoon with a hangover.

Stefan Harkins was very, very hungover. Apparently.

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