“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / To Be Announced / Director: Timur Bekmambetov / Actors: Benjamin Walker, Anthony Mackie, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell ... / Blu-ray released 2012-10-22 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment „
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The title of the film completely put me off. I really had no intention of watching it ever, but my sons do love monster films, vampires, zombies that sort of thing, and it was in 3D so I added it to our love film list, and once it arrived gave it a go. I was expecting to be bored silly with it, but as long as the children are happy I can enjoy watching their reactions to a film. As it turns out I was very pleasantly surprised.
I'm not going to tell you this was a good as The Godfather, Gone With The Wind or the The Green Mile. It isn't. If you are expecting award winning drama the very mention of vampires should put you off. This is primarily and action film with highly choreographed fight scenes that have been popular since the Matrix, and a bit of horror thrown in. But along with the fights and frights, there is a real story in this, and even a moral. I ended up enjoying this film far more than I would have thought possible - and what's more - I'm willing to admit to it.
The film is based on a novel of the same name by Seth Graheme Smith. The book is part of a rather strange new Genre called Mashups. These combine something like a classic piece of literature or a period in history with monsters of some sort. Other Mashup titles include Robin Hood and the Plague Undead, Little Vampire Women, Pride Prejudice and Zombies etc... It sounded like the type of thing that might be fun for children - but not exactly adult literature, so I brushed the entire genre off without a second thought. After watching this film I might actually give one a try - despite the silly names.
The story begins with a young Abraham Lincoln on a dock alongside a large river. A black man is being forcibly dragged onto a boat. The plantation over seer then ends up beating a black child, who happens to be young Abraham's best friend. When Abraham intervenes a chain of events is set in motion that will result in the death of his mother and a life long battle against the forces of evil.
When Abraham grows up he plans revenge on the vampire who killed his mother, but is nearly killed himself. He is saved by the very mysterious Henry, who then trains young Lincoln as a vampire hunter. The vampires are taking advantage of the peculiar institution of slavery to provide them with helpless human beings to feed on, but Lincoln sees slavery as an evil of its own as well. If his life is dedicated to fighting evil - then he must confront this dark blot on the so called land of the free as well. This will lead the nation to the edge of collapse and begin a full scale war between vampire and human, North and South, slavery and freedom. Friendships will be tried and tested, and loyalty may be found in unexpected places.
For the most part - this is a fight film. There are a number of epic fight scenes and of course a fair amount of bloodshed. Some of these are really masterpieces of special effects especially the ones with the horses and the trains. But beneath it all, in the words of Lincoln himself : "It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle." In this film Lincoln struggles not only against the imaginary evil of Vampires, but also the very real evil of slavery. He also battles against himself with teh very human desire to have an ordinary life and keep his own loved ones safe balanced against the need to stand up for the rights of those who can not protect themselves. Of course painting the Southerners as evil monsters is really over simplifying things. There was much more to this conflict than slavery and there were good and noble people on both sides, as I'm sure is true with all wars. But there is the very clear impression of a duty for people to join the struggle for right.
There were not any academy award winning performances and Benjamin Walker looks absolutely nothing like Abraham Lincoln, but the acting was good. there is nothing I can fault it on, but I can't say it was brilliant either. The one exception to this I believe was Dominic Cooper who was exceptionally good as Henry. I won't go into historical accuracy. If you are looking for accurate historical fiction I would strongly advise against picking up a film with vampire in the title. But I do not believe Lincoln had a black man as his best friend, always with him through the speeches and the discussing the war with him - nor do I believe black people were treated as equals in the North either, but it all makes a good story, and that is really what this film is about.
I'd have given this film a 4 star rating. It was enjoyable, and had some brilliant special effects, but I would not class it as 5 stars. However, my children both loved this. They both feel it should receive 5 stars, and in addition to being very entertaining it has drawn out some very deep conversation from my oldest. Neither child was upset by vampires - they don't believe in monsters. But they were both upset by the very concept of slavery and this is a difficult thing to explain to a child. My oldest was quite interested in the underground railway, and so perhaps has learned a tiny bit of history from this, but he was more interested in the basic struggle between right and wrong - how good people could allow something so deeply wrong to take place. This led to a discussion of whether people have an obligation to stand up for what is right, or does the right to self protection outweigh this? Considering the fact that my children enjoyed this so much, and the depth of conversation it provoked - I am giving this 5 stars.
This film is rated age 15. My sons are much younger than this ( ages 4 and 8) , but are not at all frightened by make believe monsters. Obviously this would not be a good a choice for every child as the vampires are quite well done and could be very frightening. If the child does not have a very clear concept of reality vs. fiction this film would not be suitable. There is violence, death and quite a lot of blood, but no prolonged scenes of suffering or cruelty. I do not recall any bad language at all, and there were no graphic scenes of a sexual nature.
Finally, as I did watch this in 3D and this review slot is for the bluray 3D version of the film, I feel some mention must be made of the 3d effects. The film is always crystal clear, with no ghosts or blurry scenes. The depth is good, but in all honesty I forgot I was watching this in 3D for long segments of the film. There is however one long segment with a train which is very, very good, although there are never any jump out of the screen moment or moments where you feel you could reach out touch something. I can only describe the 3D as good, but mild. It quite likely was better in the cinema, and you may get a tiny bit more wow with active 3D, but I can only base the review on my own experiences, which was using passive 3d Technology. I may well buy this film at some point, because the children liked it so much, but I most likely will buy this in 2D DVD as this usually works out far cheaper.
I borrowed this from Love Film, so recieved the 3D disk only. However looking on Amazon, I can see this is listed as "Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + UV Copy" which means you should get a 3D Bluray, a 2D Bluray and the right to download up to 5 copies free to devices such as tablets, i-pods or phones. Amazon is currently selling this for £19.99 which is average for 3D films. Used copies are available for roughly £15.