Happy birthday, ‘Merica! What better way to celebrate America’s birthday (and a day off from work) by going to a matinee showing of a movie that is: a) about one of the most revered presidents in American history, b) a completely fantastical retelling of said president and the Civil War, and c) about hunting vampires.
I legitimately enjoyed this film. A lot of the reviews I have read say that this movie takes itself too seriously, what with the somewhat ludicrous material, and should have aired more on the campy side, but I didn’t care. It was good ol’ fashioned summer blockbuster fun, and people need to lighten up already. As Richard Roeper so aptly stated: “Of course it’s ridiculous and tasteless and grotesque. It’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER.”
I had forgotten that this movie was based off of a book until I saw the credits at the end, and I have to say: I am dying to read it (no pun intended). I also tragically haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by the same author, and I will get on both of those books… someday. Maybe when I am not up to my eyeballs in Surrealism, minor history, regionalism, feminism, and all of the other crap I am reading right now. Unless I can think of how to work it into my thesis.
Hm, there’s some possibility there, but I digress.
I suppose it is sort of a good thing that I haven’t read the book, since I know people always end up saying things like, “The book was SO MUCH BETTER” (and according to Lisa Schwarzbaum’s sour review in Entertainment Weekly, the screenplay “[prunes the] book of any complexity and [skips] the whole John Wilkes Booth portion of the story”). I was instantly excited when I first saw the trailer last winter/spring. I love director Timur Bekmambetov’s style with movies, what with the over-cranked motion and extreme use of color and contrast. In addition to the fact that I had been anticipating this movie for months, one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this film was that it was a totally outlandish rewrite of American history: turns out the biggest reason the South was so into slavery was because vampires found slaves to be an excellent food source, since people generally did not care about their well-being back then. Therefore, the reason the Civil War started was because the vampires wanted “a country of their own” where they could live and eat in peace from the abolitionists in the North. Details about Lincoln’s life were made up, altered or omitted, such as the fact that he was not an only child as the movie makes him out to be, and he and Mary Todd Lincoln had four children instead of the one portrayed in the film. However, other details about him and his presidency did stay true to history: the Gettysburg address, how he worked in a shop while he taught himself law from books, and how he was staunchly against slavery.
In the movie, Lincoln becomes obsessed with seeking revenge after the untimely death of his mother, which happened to follow an altercation his father had with a local slave owner. History declares her death was from milk sickness, but “Vampire Hunter” insists it was because of a vampire. He eventually meets Henry, a vampire hunter who teaches him the ropes, and having had bad luck in the past with guns (Henry’s usual weapon of choice because they can be loaded with silver bullets), Lincoln uses a silver-tipped ax. He learns to be both fast and powerful, as vampires are speedy, elusive, and even more powerful. They also have adapted to live in the sunlight, but thank the Lord, they do not sparkle. There are rules to being a vampire hunter, such as not developing any ties to friends or family, but he does not stay completely true to these rules, as evidenced by his eventual marriage to Mary Todd. And eventually, his morals acquired from vampire hunting and law book-reading lead him to the presidency.
Though I greatly enjoyed this movie, I do have to say that I am getting very tired of the vampire fad. Yes, this movie was not pro-vampire like so many other literary and cinematic phenomena right now, but for the love of god, can’t we have more movies about OTHER supernatural beings? Aliens are making a comeback, and ghosts will never leave the cinematic realm, but what about werewolves (not in relation to vampires)? Or fairies? Or the chupacabra? People are pretty damn creative storytellers, let’s not forget that there are plenty of other creatures to choose from. Let us move past the vampires already.