Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Abraham Licoln: Vampire Hunter is clearly a surrogate for Simon Belmont

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounded like a fun idea at first. After we heard it a few times, it almost immediately flipped into "already played out, despite the fact that it hasn’t been released yet." The fact is, at least from the discussion so far, it seems to use this fascinating historical backdrop as a hook, without really engaging it very much. So vampires were trying to use the Civil War as a cover for their own takeover of the American landscape? They wanted their own nation, and only the defenders of freedom like Abraham Lincoln could stand in their way?

After the cutesy cognitive dissonance wears off, it becomes clear that this is simply a rough, exploitative manhandling of history. Yes, he had a period of fierce youthful independence, including making his own solitary journey into the South – but as a young man, he was disciplined and pragmatic. As President, Abraham Lincoln was not a general… he wasn’t even particularly famous for being a soldier, or a rugged individualist, or any of the other romantic notions of a "hero" to justify this kind of appropriation as "clever." The guy was actually a diplomat, a force of balance and principled compromise (opposed both slavery and abolitionism), who built the foundation of a war on the bedrock of popular support, and who ultimately united the country, rather than allowing it to remain divided, or permanently alienating his Southern countrymen.

Bottom line: it doesn’t really jive, as a concept. I would have been more excited about Ulysses S. Grant: Vampire Hunter, or Henry David Thoreau: Vampire Hunter, or Jack Kerouac: Vampire Hunter.

But if you’re like me, you saw the trailer:

... and thought, "Shit, this still looks pretty cool. It uses the bullet-time slow-mo bullshit in a way that’s pretty off the hook, if you’re into that sort of thing, and setting aside the fact that it’s Abe Lincoln, they seem to have created a badass Central Hero to fulfill all our Lonely Gothic Crusader fantasies." So how do you really enjoy this movie, given the fact that it’s based on a totally confusing historical revisionist brain-fart?

Here’s my solution: I’m going to pretend this is actually a Castlevania movie.

With the whips, the Secret Society vibe, and the ridiculous Underworld-style photography transplanted into the 19th Century, this seems like the best approach. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appears to owe more to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest than to Interview With The Vampire. Like the best of the Belmonts, Abraham Lincoln seems to be cursed with a warrior’s calling: is the chosen son, bane of the undead scourge, cursed with the double-edged sword of Privileged Insight and Principled Responsibility.

This is an act of mental remixing, like transplanting Radiohead as the musical accompaniment to a Jay-Z album. We’re going to replace one mythos with another, discarding the putative origin story for a new one, ganked from a more appropriate property. By rejecting its premise and substituting our own, we are going to make Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter the brilliant movie it deserves to be.

No comments: