Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Joseph Mawle, Robin McLeavy
Seth Grahame-Smith, Seth Grahame-Smith (novel)
President by day. Hunter by night.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter explores the secret life of our greatest president, and the untold story that shaped our nation. Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (Director of Wanted) bring a fresh and visceral voice to the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history's greatest hunter of the undead.
$16.306 million on 3108 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1
Ukrainian Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 105 min.
Release Date: 10/23/2012
• Audio Commentary With Writer Seth Grahame-Smith
• “The Great Calamity” Graphic Novel
• “The Making of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” Documentary
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks and Trailer
• DVD Copy
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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter [Blu-Ray] (2012)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 29, 2012)
Do “high concept” tales get any “high conceptier” than 2012’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Probably not. With a title that sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit, the film seemed destined to provide a goofy comedic farce.
Nope. Instead, Hunter decided to provide a straight supernatural action flick – and a fairly good one, despite some flaws.
We open in 1818 and meet young Abraham Lincoln (Lux Haney-Jardine) as well as his father Thomas (Joseph Mawle) and mother Nancy (Robin McLeavy). Thomas works on the plantation owned by Jack Barts (Martin Czokas), and Abe befriends Will Johnson (Curtis Harris), a young slave child. When Barts assaults Will one day, Abe defends his pal, and Thomas leaps to protect his son when the mean-spirited Barts turns on the boy.
That same evening, Abe sees Barts bite his mother’s neck. She turns ill and dies before long. Not surprisingly, Abe blames Barts for the death of his beloved mother and plans revenge when he can extract it.
This attitude sticks with Lincoln when we meet him as a late teenager (Benjamin Walker). Abe manages to shoot Barts in the eye, but this doesn’t stop Lincoln’s nemesis – because Barts is a vampire. Eventually mystery man Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) intercedes and saves Abe from his undead enemy.
The knowledge that Barts can’t be slayed via traditional methods doesn’t dissuade Lincoln from his mission. Sturges promises to teach Abe the ways of the vampire hunter if he accepts other missions and doesn’t simply use his newfound talents to go after Barts.
Abe agrees and embarks on years of training before he moves to Illinois, an apparent hotbed of the undead. Abe takes up a menial position at a small store so he can have the money to live while he uses his nights to slay vampires. Though Sturges instructs Abe to avoid friends and family, he meets and falls for Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He also re-encounters Will (Anthony Mackie) and becomes best pals with him again, all while he works toward killing Barts.
Oh, and Abe eventually gets into politics – and he finds himself with the need to take down the largest vampire cabal in America, one that uses slaves as a buffet. That sets him up for a confrontation with Adam (Rufus Sewell), the chief vampire, and his thousands of immortal minions.
Back when I saw director Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted in 2008, I wasn’t impressed – and by “wasn’t impressed”, I mean I thought it was the definition of all-style, no-substance filmmaking. Given the patently absurd subject matter of Hunter, I feared that this flick would be more of the same.
Happily, it’s not. While Bekmanbetov still loves his stylistic flourishes – the man never met a slow-motion action sequence he didn’t embrace – he manages to avoid the “flash for flash’s sake” nature of Wanted. He also creates a film that seems substantially less stupid than Wanted, even though Hunter comes with an intensely ridiculous premise.
I suspect this occurs because Hunter avoids the cheeky tone one would expect from a film in which one of America’s greatest leaders is revealed to be an awesome vampire killer. Given the fact that the premise reads like the theme of a comedy sketch, one would expect a lot of camp from Hunter, but instead, it treats the material with almost shocking seriousness. There’s a little humor along the way, but the movie never depicts the concept or core material as anything other than dramatic.
Which seems both good and bad. On one hand, I like the fact that the movie doesn’t devolve into simple parody that milks its lone joke to an extreme.
But on the other hand, I do wish the film didn’t take itself quite so seriously. Perhaps the flick’s creators felt the only way to counteract the concept’s natural absurdity was to treat it like King Lear, and maybe they’re right, but I still think they could’ve found a better balance and had a bit more fun with the material.
Despite that, Hunter does manage to offer surprisingly solid entertainment for much of its running time. The scenes with a 20-something Lincoln fare the best. These offer the most dynamic thrills and most easily allow us to suspend disbelief. Well, somewhat – the sight of Lincoln’s virtually super-human fighting skills can stretch credulity. But if you’re going to accept the notion that our 16th president spent much of his life as the foe of the undead, you can probably accept his awesome prowess with an axe.
Unfortunately, Hunter bites off much more than it can chew. Had it stayed with younger Lincoln in Illinois, it would’ve been pretty darned satisfying. However, it doesn’t limit itself to that part of Abe’s life. Instead, we eventually follow Lincoln into the political sphere, his presidency and the Civil War. All of this leads toward a climax in 1863 at Gettysburg.
And all of that may leave the viewer with the feeling that the movie overshoots its mark and tries too hard, especially when it places Adam and the vampires as the main cause of slavery! This gets unnecessarily complex and borderline pointless. Maybe some viewers will find it clever that the film creates this backstory to explain the continued need for Southern slaves, and perhaps it worked better in the original novel that was adapted for the big screen.
But in the movie itself, it just doesn’t work. When we get to President Lincoln, the ability to suspend disbelief collapses and the film feels way too absurd to succeed. It still comes with a fairly exciting climax, but that sequence can’t overcome the off-putting nature of the third act’s narrative. I went with the film when small town lawyer Lincoln battled the odd vampire; when I had to accept a kick-butt 50-something President Lincoln as well as the layers of the slave conspiracy, my brain decided it couldn’t take it any more and departed.
Still, two-thirds of a good movie beats no-thirds of a good movie, so my feelings about Hunter remain generally positive. I wish it’d stayed in the 1830s and fleshed out those themes better – especially since that would’ve left open more logical room for a sequel – but I like most of the flick despite its flaws.
The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio A/ Bonus B+
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. I found a consistently terrific transfer here.
Sharpness was always good. All shots came across as tight and concise, without any softness to mar them. I saw no issues with moiré effects or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to appear. Source flaws were non-existent.
In terms of palette, Hunter stayed with a decidedly low-key set of colors. Daytime shots went mostly sepia – with a little light green on occasion - while nighttime sequences veered toward a blue tint. Though restricted, the hues worked well within the visual design. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows were good. A couple might’ve been a wee bit too thick, but the majority of the low-light shots provided solid clarity. All in all, the movie looked great.
I felt totally impressed by the lively DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Hunter, as it offered enough pizzazz to merit “A”-level consideration. The soundfield created a terrific sense of place and threw out fine action when appropriate. The movie’s various fight/pyrotechnic sequences boasted vivid material that showed up around the spectrum in a lively manner.
Other aspects of the track satisfied as well. Music always offered good stereo imaging, and quieter scenes were convincing, too. These showed a clear sense of place and meshed together in a pleasing way.
Audio quality always excelled. Effects were dynamic and clear, with deep bass and good punch. Music showed similar strengths, as the score was lively and full. Speech came across as natural and concise. I liked this track and thought it added a lot to the movie.
When we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from novelist/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion that touches on a mix of areas like cast and performances, sets and locations, effects and the like. However, Grahame-Smith usually concentrates on his original novel, its adaptation and other aspects of the script, its story and characters.
That’s an appropriate focus and Grahame-Smith covers it well. Actually, I wish he focused on story/character/script areas more often, as he broadens to other subjects a bit too often; while he’s a good speaker, I’d like it if he stayed with his field and left the other domains to those who were actively involved in them. Nonetheless, Grahame-Smith proves to be a likable, engaging commentator and he makes this a useful piece.
To learn more of the “untold stories of vampires in America”, we go to a graphic novel called The Great Calamity. This runs seven minutes, 43 seconds and shows an animated piece that lets us find out how vampires ended up in the US. It’s not especially memorable, but it does fill in some blanks from the movie.
Under The Making of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, we get a one-hour, 15-minute and 21-second documentary. It features info from Grahame-Smith, producers Tim Burton and Jim Lemley, director Timur Bekmambetov, director of photography Caleb Deschanel, production designer Francois Audouy, executive producer/unit production manager John J. Kelly, set decorator Cheryl Curasik, costume designers Carlo Poggioli and Varvara Avdyushko, reenactment coordinator Christopher A. Petro II, Civil War reenactor Dave Sullivan, stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers, fight coordinator Don E. Lee, property master Guillaume DeLouche, fight choreographer Igor Tsay, special effects coordinator Matt Kutcher, makeup department head Fionagh Cush, makeup effects supervisor Will Huff, makeup artist Edouard Henriques III, blood and gore prosthetics artist Elvis Jones, visual effects supervisors Michael Owens, Dennis Sedov and Craig Lyn, storyboard artist Indar Dzhendubaev, and actors Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benjamin Walker, Jimmi Simpson, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, and Erin Wasson.
“Making” examines the novel and its adaptation for the screen, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets, locations, costumes and production design, battles, stunts and action, makeup and effects, planning and storyboards, and some general thoughts. Overall, it delivers a pretty good look at the production. Even with 75 minutes at its disposal, it feels a little complete – it doesn’t touch on a few aspects of the flick – but it’s still a generally solid and informative documentary.
Next comes a Music Video for “Powerless” from Linkin Park. This is a standard combination of movie clips and lip-synch performance footage. It’s a snoozer.
The disc opens with an ad for Prometheus. That promo shows up under Sneak Peek along with clips for The Raven and American Horror Story Season One. The disc also includes the trailer for Hunter.
A second disc provides a DVD Copy of Hunter. This gives us a movie-only version of the flick with no extras.
With a title like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I figured the film would offer a campy spoof. Instead, I got a surprisingly effective – and serious – action flick that only falters because it bites off more chronological territory than it can chew. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with a pretty good set of supplements. Both as a movie and as a Blu-ray, this is a solid release.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.85 Stars|| Number of Votes: 40|