This film, nor the book it was adapted from, promises complete historical accuracy in conjunction with seriousness. The mere thought of our 16th president living a secret double life as a vampire hunter is so absurd, it makes us wonder why we didn’t think of that brilliant idea. The novel was well-researched; it integrated vampires into the driving force behind slavery and the south’s cause to fight in the Civil War almost seamlessly. The style of the novel is mainly serious, which adds to the overall appeal of the Lincoln-Vampire historical fantasy. However, somewhere along the way of its adaptation from written word to film, someone decided to vomit their coffee over the pages, “forcing” the film to be written specifically for 3D. This film fell short of expectations – like, a “knob for a penis” short.
Any form of high special effects, three-dimensional or not, cannot and will never compensate for a lack of a well-written script. It’s painfully obvious that “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” had specific scenes – not from the book – written into the screenplay for the sake of adding 3D effects, with terrible CGI. It is the collaborative responsibility of all those involved with on-screen elements to make sure that action sequences make sense within the context of the plot, or are relevant. How is fighting a vampire in the middle of a herd of wild horses relevant to the plot of Mr. Lincoln’s vampire hunting prowess? It seems like someone said “Hey, I’ve always wanted to make a 3D image of a horse flying at someone’s face,” and decided to put an unnecessary action sequence of Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) fighting Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). It goes down like this: Lincoln is trying to kill Barts and chases him out into an open field when OH MY GOD WILD HORSES SUDDENLY APPEAR. Awesome – a human totally has the capability to jump up on a horse sprinting at full speed and dodge the ones Barts throws at him.
The train action sequence presents another issue. While it does fit directly into the plot line of the film, the specifics of who betrayed Lincoln when and why become fuzzy. Up until this point in the film, Lincoln and Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) are not speaking because Sturges did not reveal to Lincoln that he was a vampire. So, without Sturges’ input, Lincoln sets off on a train full of silver with his best friend, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie), and Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson). BUT WAIT! Speed is a traitor and Struges’ magically appears to save the day and buy back Lincoln’s friendship, so to speak. When did this happen? What’s going on? Oh, look! Shinny explosions! Nice try, but maybe if Grahame-Smith focused on the quality of writing in his script, the explosions wouldn’t put so many holes in the plot.
And this leads to another plot-hole. Time – or historical accuracy if you are into that sort of thing. In the film, Lincoln eats lunch with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), lamenting over the first day of battle at Gettysburg; the blood thirsty vampire confederates massacre the union soldiers. Desperate to defeat them, Lincoln miraculously comes up with a brilliant plan: find as much silver as humanly possible and smelt it down into bullets, cannon balls, bayonets, etc. Great plan Seth, er, Mr. Lincoln, but there’s one problem with it. The Battle of Gettysburg lasted for three days, July 1-3 1863. Is the audience expected to believe that 19th century mortals were able to smelt, mold, and transport an arsenal of ammunition and weapons in two days time to allow a major Union victory at the end? I may not have a great sense of smell, but I can smell bullshit with all its pungent aroma. In the book, the vampire Confederate soldiers crept into Union camps at night and killed soldiers that way – far more believable for something that is completely fictional to begin with.
Lastly, the omission of John Wilkes Booth and the revelation that he was a vampire for the Confederate army, ruins the ending of the film. Instead, some half-assed, cheesy “Abe, we’ll be late for the theater” line was put in. The audience knows that Booth assassinated Lincoln – if they don’t, they need to re-take the 5th grade – but the magic of the book’s ending comes from fitting vampires into every aspect of the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency, and that includes vampire Booth. It’s very depressing when a writer can’t adapt their own work.
Tim Burton has become everything that is wrong with the film industry today. The favorite storyteller of many people’s childhoods is now washed-up, with nothing new to present the world, and he is taking up-and-coming writers with him. Seth Grahame-Smith needs to stop writing screenplays and Tim Burton needs to stop putting his hands in the pockets of adaptations and remakes. He is only adding to the mediocre art that permeates the industry. Novels have been Hollywood’s greatest source of material since its inception, but here are THOUSANDS of screenwriters out there that are incredibly talented who don’t write books, or do, but also have the ability to adapt their own work. Start with them.
Like these people: