I read the book back in the summer, and absolutely loved it. It’s brilliantly written, and the characters really do come to life right in front of you. Last night, I finally got a chance to watch the film, after wanting to see it for ages. I didn’t really know what to expect; I’m usually quite forgiving with film adaptations, because I’m fully aware that what makes a good scene in a novel doesn’t always make a good scene on-screen. Some things just don’t translate well, especially as film has to fit more things in a shorter space, and keep watchers more engaged. So dialogue, drama-heavy pages get replaced with a quick conversation and movement. You’re targeting not just the fans of the book, but fans of whatever genre of film it would eventually fit into.
And Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was clearly going to be a sort of action film, more than a drama. It was never going to be Lincoln with vampires, because that would just be a strange mix that wouldn’t really work. (I haven’t seen Lincoln. I don’t know if I’d want to – it just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea)
I felt like the film, from the start, put more on the race issue of slavery than the book did. The book kind of focuses more on Abe finding out about vampires before he realises how evil slavery really is. It’s underlying the book throughout, of course, but it doesn’t become his main focus until later. And the book spends more time building up his skills, too, and his loses. Of course, the film doesn’t have time for all that but I still felt it skipped over a lot.
I feel like they forgot about the whole axe thing until he starts actually training to be a hunter, yet he’s shown to be awesome with it straight off. In practice, at least. His previous job is a throwaway line, nothing more, when they could have done something a bit more with the axe earlier on. Mary Todd’s importance is built up a lot more in the film, too. As far as I remember, she didn’t come into the book until much later on (I think. That could be wrong) and her role is played up a lot more in Abe’s life as a whole. Plus…well, I think some of the early scenes between Mary and Abe feel very, very awkward. Nothing wrong with the dialogue, but the two actors just don’t seem to click. They do, however, work much better when they’re both older, even if they start out looking the same age and Mary ends up looking like three years older, while Abe looks like an old man.
A lot of the first few vampire huntings you see Abe go on have this sense about them that he’s getting through by luck; at first, it makes sense. After all, these are only his first few vampires. But then it cuts to a vampire, Abe defeats him using his amazing luck skills…and you find out he’s killed a hell of a lot by that time. It’s only when there’s a mass of vampires that you get a real strength that he’s good at what he does, but until then, I almost felt like I was trying to work out how he’s survived this long.
The film is really not subtle with its vampires, either. Abe should just be going for anyone who is wearing sunglasses when no one else is, but instead he walks blissfully along, ignoring the people who seem to be shying away from the sun. What kind of vampire hunter are you, Lincoln? Cos I feel like Buffy would have made a speech, spotted the vampire and lunged right at him. Or at least gone after him when no one else was around.
The film gets rid of some of Abe’s most interesting friends – in the book, when he arrives in the town where he meets Speed, he is threatened by a group of men, part of a large family who are basically the jocks of their town. After he beats one of the men up, the guy becomes a good friend, and later joins Abe on hunting. This is missed in the film and replaced by Will, Abe’s childhood friend. It’s something that wouldn’t have bothered me, if they hadn’t changed so many other things. It suffers a lot from not being able to have more, either. As far as I can remember, Abe actually does manage to kill a vampire – although ends up nearly dead himself – just before he meets Henry. He discovers that many of the politicians he’s working alongside actually are vampires, as is Mary Todd’s original fiancé. Actually, the film shows a Senator, who suggests Abe should go into politics, wearing sunglasses. But then he’s never seen again. As for Abe’s love’s fiancé….WHAT THE HELL? There are suggestions that he’s going to play a bigger role, or at least become some obstacle for Abe, and he would have been perfect as minor vampire/villain, AND IT’S ALAN TUDYK!!! Looking only slightly like Alan Tudyk! Missed opportunities right there.
BUT, I enjoyed it. Despite all this, I did like the film. I think if it hadn’t been so long since I read the book, maybe I wouldn’t have liked it as much. It’s barely recognisable from the book I remember, but that can be okay. (Personally, although I will watch it, I have a feeling I’m going to absolutely hate World War Z) It’s only really the core characters and plot that stay the same, and one of the things I really, really liked about the book (which would have been easy to show in like five minutes in the film) was missing. They didn’t even show him at the theatre! But still, it was fun.
Some of it was very, very stylised. I have to admit, I kind of like some bad CGI in films now. I don’t think it gets enough credit. Yet the whole over the top feel of some scenes was just added to with how very fake those horses looked. If you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about. The stylised feel works, especially in the larger scale scenes; the horse-chase scene and the traditional epic battle near the end. On top of that, when you see the soldiers fighting in the Civil War, the camera starts above them. They look like toy soldiers, almost mirroring Abe’s son Willy playing with his own toy soldiers. As the camera pans in, you start to get a sense of the men fighting, and it works well to draw you in.
And I loved the fight scenes. The slow motion effect is used in almost every ‘non-realistic’ film now when there’s a fight taking part, but ever since The Matrix and, more recently, 300, I love the effect it produces as you watch a bullet slowly hit, and see the blood sloooowly spurting out. It just gives the fight another edge, and it’s used well here.
This is one of few films that really tore me in two. I really didn’t like what happened to the book, but if it was a stand alone film I think I would have loved it. As it is, I just enjoyed it. Then again, I think there are very few vampire films I’d dislike. (As long as the vampires are, you know, vampires, and not just sparkly boys wandering around going “woe is me my life is so difficult”) So overall, I’d say if you want just a bit of fun, a chance to turn your brain off for just under two hours, check it out.