The brilliance of “Lincoln” is lost in the era of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

The movie poster for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”.

Last night, I went to the movie theatre to see Lincoln. It was fantastic. It was epic. It was brilliant in virtually every regard.

And over the course of the film, I watched three separate groups of people in the already sparse audience get up and walk out of the movie.

I’m not going to spoil the movie (although a lot of the film’s events are in your average American history book, and the whole movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”). But I can tell you that the movie is beautifully written and paced, and the cinematography was incredible and appropriate. The portrait that the film paints of Lincoln is at once intimately human and reverently historical. The plot is intricately political and demands the audience to rise to the challenge of following the intrigue rather than dumbing down the parties involved. “Lincoln” is a story about Abraham Lincoln; but it is also a story about the Thirteenth Amendment and about a divided Congress and about a vision of America that seems timely for the political circumstances of today.

It goes without saying that the acting is dead-on. Tommy Lee Jones performs capably (as he often does).

Batman Forever notwithstanding.

Sally Fields hits the right notes with her depiction of the unstable, grief-stricken Mary Todd Lincoln. Joseph Gordon-Levitt cements his rising star status as a young Hollywood actor who can actually act in his portrayal as Lincoln’s eldest son Bobby. Jared Harris steals every scene he’s in with his subdued and nuanced performance as Ulysses S. Grant.

And, it goes without saying that Daniel Day-Lewis is a freaking force of natureHe doesn’t just portray Lincoln; he simply is Lincoln. He will win an Oscar for this performance.

There are no words for how incredible Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is.

I fundamentally believe that everyone — and I do mean everyone — should see this movie.

Yet, on its second week, my showing of Lincoln was almost entirely empty. If I’m reading it accurately, IMDB claims this movie — made on a $65 million dollar budget — grossed just under $1 million in revenues at the box office last week in limited release. It earned $6.4 million in its opening night at a full release behind Skyfall and Breaking Dawn 2, which sounds pretty good until you remember that every other film still in theatres right now has been out for weeks.

And, I reiterate, three separate groups of people walked out of my showing of Lincoln last night.

The problem, I think, is that Lincoln doesn’t speak down to its audience. It expects its viewer to be smart and engaged in the movie’s subject material. It expects its audience to be entertained by the political twists of its story.

And, I think maybe it’s expecting too much.

Lincoln opened the same weekend as Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2, an insipid tween fantasy about ridiculously good-looking glittering immortal vampires that fall in love with 17 year old girls. Lincoln shared theatre space with Skyfall, which is a great Bond movie — which is to say, it’s a fun romp alongside a bad-ass British guy whose singular interests involve guns (lots of guns), martinis (lots of martinis) and vagina (lots and lots and lots of vagina).

Now, don’t get me twisted. I love me some low-brow eye candy movies. I was there on opening night when Expendables 2 came out.

But, I wonder if Lincoln just can’t compete when the movie-going audience now expects epic CG action scenes strung together by the thinnest excuse of a plot. I wonder if Daniel Day-Lewis is wasted on a movie-going audience that squeals over actors whose chief talent is the ability to read lines on-camera while sparkling.

Yes, Robert Pattinson, I am talking about you.

Lincoln likely won’t do well in box offices this year. I doubt it will do much more than recoup its $65 million production costs. It will cater primarily to parents escorting their tweens to the mall to go see the glittering vampire movie.

And this will not be a failing of Lincoln. Lincoln is brilliant.

It will be because moviegoers are apparently bored by any movie that doesn’t treat them like idiots temporarily attracted by shiny things. It will be because moviegoers can’t get engaged by a historical bio-pic about one of the country’s most influential presidents.

In short, it will be because moviegoers lose interest in movies unless it’s got vampires in it.

Which means there could be an entire generation learning about the Lincoln presidency through THIS movie.

Seriously. Fuck the Twilight franchise.

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