Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

(2012) Timur Bekmambetov, Regal Battery Park.

A gimmicky concept played for no laughs and too much CGI action, with in-jokes lost in the algorithmic mess like the one about Stephen Douglas courting a young Mary Todd before Lincoln would both steal Mary away and historically debate the Illinois Senator over sundry issues like the economy of slaves.  

Abe Lincoln is a blur of impulse and his team of freedman, store clerk and good dracula are given little expressive huddle.  Mary Todd Winstead provides an actorly highlight, as does as the aging makeup for Benjamin Walker as he transforms into fiftysomething President Lincoln, if only because the makeup is much much better than that applied to Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar, an American historical figure who also hunted rebel vampires.

The movie bleaches out the historiological premise that seems might be a crux in the book, but focus-grouped out of the adaptation, that the antebellum South is a vampire haven and the slave trade exists to provide the undead a source of food. The Civil War is thus fought to destroy this bloodsucking empire.

The premise, like the action sequences, is glossed over without much gloss, other than a thin matricide-revenge plot we have all seen before.  As a result, it is probable that the movie has alienated many movie audiences, including Southerners, blacks, history buffs, and teenagers seeking cool special effects.

Hollywood has become effectual at providing movies that are everything but.  Looks like a movie, sounds like a movie, but by the time you have eaten all your popcorn and slurped your soda, doesn’t taste like a movie.

In the mid-1960s, Allan Katzman, founder of The East Village Other, a radical biweekly newspaper, described mainstream news as a similar fake:

“The papers of pseudo events, news leaks and press releases, offend no one; they take no moral stand. They are just... neutral. They furnish our boring and repetitive lives with boring and repetitive 'news.’"

Substitute “news” for “movies” and the predicament of the Hollywood multiplex is answered.

Playwright and moviemaker David Mamet, in his book Bambi v. Godzilla, uses the metaphor of politics to explicate the con game of Hollywood movies.  The government makes “periodic declarations” which “assuage fully half of the populace absent any correspondence between that verbiage and the government’s actions or, indeed, between them and the plausible.  The administration, like the sitcom of old, has discovered that, given an immobilized audience, a presentation of the form is sufficient entertainment.”

Mamet argues that “big and bad films, summer films, blockbusters have similarly become the laugh track to our national experiment... we are reassured by their presence rather than their content or operations.”

As a result, the moviegoer buys a ticket, and then might as well go home to watch TV.

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