June 28, 2012
Scathing reviews have been pouring in for the film adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. And unfortunately, mine is no different.
I was crushed, especially since reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the most fun I ever had in a book. The carefully thought out symbolism behind the axe swinging and honorable Abe Lincoln fighting a private civil war against vampires, within a public civil war for human rights, was eerily believable and consuming in written word.
But what we’re given on the big screen is more of a Wild, Wild Matrix with gratuitous CGE and a story that is a skeleton of its original self. It feels like the screenwriter barely read a CliffNotes version of the novel, which is uncomfortable considering Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of both.
So what happened? What happened is what I like to call the perfect storm in LA -- you get an overzealous producer with a ton of money and a pipe dream to create the ultimate book-to-film adaptation; he hires his director friend who only knows how to make one type of film with one type of camera shot that just so happened to make a hundred million dollars... once; he then sells the concept to a major film studio as a summer blockbuster to get an even bigger budget, and TADA, we’re given one of the worst most anticipated films of the summer!
Now you’re probably asking yourself: is that basically what happens with every film? And is THAT what happened with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?
Yeah, basically. But even the most earnest attempts at adapting a book to film can go to the bad place, which is what I really think happened here.
For starters, we’re forced to see this story through the eyes of one person, and it’s near impossible for that one person to capture and represent a story in the millions of different ways people have already adapted it. And no offense to director Timbur Bekmambetov, but he’s the last director I would have picked to adapt this novel. My visions of Abe Lincoln fighting vampires did not involve overly processed effects and enough shiny pretty things to light up a city.
Also, you can’t tell me how to watch this film, you’re not my mother! (Please disregard this if you’re my mother.)
Next, of course, is editing. Since he wrote a great book, I have no doubt that Grahame-Smith wrote an amazing screenplay too. I also have no doubt that he went through over a dozen editing sessions and was forced to watch his masterpiece whittled down to less than half its mass, both in size and story. That’s right folks¬ – if screenwriters were to adapt a book word-for-word, we would be sitting through five and six hour films. And let’s be honest: nobody is going to sit through that and not consider it “performance art.”
When are producers going to quit blowing their budgets on expensive directors and invest in a top notch editing team instead? Steven Spielberg has been using the same team for over 30 years, earning him over a dozen Academy Award nominations over the span of his career.
Anyways, the bottom line is that book-to-film adaptations can be downright impossible, and this isn’t new. The general rule has always been that if you plan on reading the book first, keep your expectations low for the film. And if you plan on seeing the film first, remember not to judge a book by its film.
(And fingers crossed that Burton and Bekmambetov haven’t locked themselves in a closet to plot their next adaptation.)
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Stacy is California born and raised, and happily living in Boston. By day, she’s a seasoned digital marketer, social media enthusiast and pop culture consumer. After studying special effects makeup and film for over 20 years, she is also full-time film buff and by night, produces content for horror publications, focusing on classic and contemporary horror films.
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