Page to Screen: Adam’s Review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This post is the first in a new series on the blog, Page to Screen! Members of the staff will compare their thoughts on books and their film adaptations.  Check out the first edition with Adam and his thoughts on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!

“There has never been a faithful adaptation of a book into a movie.” “You should just read the book and skip the movie.”  These are just some of the things book lovers say regarding many an adaptation of their favorite novels into films. Often times, I feel out-of-place when writing on the blog because I don’t love to read. I am glad Kim still allows me to blog for her despite my proclamation that I’m much more of a film fan than a book fan. About a year ago I read a book I actually enjoyed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I reviewed it for this very website (you can read my review here). A year later a movie version of that book came out, and I went to see it in the hopes of proving or disproving the book lover adage that there is no such thing as a good adaptation from page to film.  First, however, a little history of my experience reading the novel.

One sunny summer day in New York City a miracle happened: I checked a book out from the library! That book of course was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and I read it in about 2.5 weeks (lightening speed for me). I really enjoyed how the story was told, especially how Grahame-Smith intertwined the personal diary of Lincoln, which many people did not know about, with the main plot line. When I found out they were making the book into a movie, I wondered how they would translate this particular aspect of the novel. I originally thought that since the whole story is told through narrative and journal entries, it wouldn’t really translate well to the screen. Fortunately, the first time I saw the full-length trailer my faith was restored. One, it was visually stunning and two, they kept Henry, my favorite character from the book. As I began to visit IMDB more often to search about the movie, I learned that Seth Grahame-Smith co-wrote the script and was also credited as a producer. My faith was fully restored. He wouldn’t butcher his own baby, right?

There were many differences between the film and novel, some of which were for time constraint, while others just wouldn’t translate well. Some characters were taken out of the book: Ann Rutledge, who was Abraham Lincoln’s fiancée before Mary Todd, Edgar Allan Poe, who also hated the vampires and knew of their true evils, and John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln and knew an important secret about him.

In return for those three characters we added Adam, the main antagonist of the film and a head vampire who wanted the south to break away from the union to create a vampire nation. He added a great conflict to the story, one that was needed to make the film. As much as I loved the book and the inner thoughts of Abraham Lincoln, I don’t think that this alone would’ve translated well. I think the audience would have been bored and not drawn in to the film. Another deviation from the book was how quickly Lincoln begins his quest against vampires. In both the book and the movie, Lincoln witnesses a vampire poisoning his mother, killing her. In the book, shortly after this act he kills the vampire, while in the movie it takes quite a few years to do so. In both the book and the movie, Henry trains Lincoln to kill vampires, but one key fact is revealed at a different point: Henry is a vampire himself. In the book it is revealed shortly after we meet Henry, while in the movie, a rule was created that prevented vampires from killing other vampires: a rule that does not exist in the book. Finally, the ending is also very different, but this is a no spoiler website. Go out and read the book and view the movie for yourself!

Like anything in life, most people don’t like changes. When we go from one big stage of our lives to another, we panic and start holding on to the past. I’m here to tell all you bookies, it’s ok to like the movie version too. Yes it will be different, and yes they may cut out the best scene of inner dialogue because it won’t translate to screen well, but it can still be great! I think if you have faith that the main idea of the book will come across, you can enjoy both the movie and novel. Also, although I rated both the movie and book versions of Vampire Hunter the same, I did like the movie an ounce more, just for the sheer fact that Benjamin Walker (who played Abraham Lincoln) was so badass. Until next time, happy reading and viewing.

Book: 5 out of 5 Stars

Movie: 5 out of 5 Stars

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Tim Burton Productions
R, 105 Minutes

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central Publishing (2010)
Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN: 0446563080

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4 thoughts on “Page to Screen: Adam’s Review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

  1. I don’t think it’s true that the book is always better than the movie. The English Patient was much better as a movie than a book, for example. I do think that when you read a book and love it there are certain scenes you really want to see come alive on screen, and if the filmmakers fail at those scenes–or don’t include them–it pisses the readers off. For the most part, though, I generally consider books and movies completely different entities, even if they tell the same story. A movie isn’t going to ruin a book for me, or vice versa.

  2. I’m reading this at the moment, and loving it. Once the film comes out on DVD, I am, without a doubt, going to watch it. I don’t like when people instantly dislike a film because it’s not the exact same as the book; okay, I admit, I don’t like key scenes or key characters being cut out, but I always try to view the film and book as products in their own right. I feel I get more pleasure out of both because of it; instead of focusing on raging against the changes, I try to see why they’ve made the changes and, usually, it’s clear they’ve made it because it just translates better to screen that way.

  3. Pingback: 2012 In Review: Adam’s Top Five Films of the Year « Reflections of a Book Addict

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