I don't have to tell you that books and movies are very different forms of media. Yet, so very often we see popular books made into movies and expect them to entice us in a similar way. The latest book to movie project in theaters is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Having enjoyed the book, I was encouraged to read that Seth Graham-Smith, the popular, geeky, historical sci-fi fantasy novel's author was also the writer of the screenplay.
But this alone does not a successful book to film transfer make. Let me elaborate.
The Plus Side: If you are a big fan of kick-ass action and vampire slaying, this is your movie. If you are a big fan of 3D effects, this is your movie. If you are a big fan of slow motion laden fight scenes, this is your movie.
These are all valid reasons in my mind to sit in a cool, dark theater on a hot summer day and take in a flick and if you are alright with the above being all you will get from a movie, knock yourself out. I expected a little more however.
The Down Side: If you hoped to see a film that tied an unbelievable fictional story into the secret life of Honest Abe in a way that made you able to see how it might have been happening all along behind the scenes as it did in the book, you will be disappointed. In fact, through most of this film, the fact that the main character, the one doing all the vampire hunting, happens to be Abraham Lincoln is almost irrelevant. It may as well have been Grover Cleveland: Vampire Hunter, Rutherfor B. Hayes: Vampire Hunter or Millard Fillmore: Vampire Hunter. Sure, they reminded you every now and then that it was Abe you were watching, but the Civil War was just a setting more than a central plot device and the Gettysburg Address seemed thrown in hastily out of obligation. Overall, the fact that one of the most famous, revered and studied president in the history of the United States was being depicted as a closet Buffy didn't seem to be a central point that drove the story as it did in the book.
Again, I know as you do that books and movies are different. However, when a novel does such a meticulously clever job of threading the fantastic with the historic, you hope that the film might at least hold water by that standard and this movie just plain doesn't.
The Wrap Up: When it comes down to it, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a fun, action packed movie with lots of gore, lots of fighting and some over-the-top steampunk Michael Bay-esque action scenes. But it could have been more. It's Graham-Smith's story to do with as he pleases and I will not deny him that pleasure, but instead of an attempt at a campy cult classic (which this film may be in its future), it could have been a darker, more serious look at the Civil War and its battle between right and wrong during our country's history.
Oh, and don't bring the kids unless they are really into blood or you enjoy them having nightmares.