Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Bourne Legacy vs. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, two big-budget thrillers about what happens to men who murder in the service of their country.
PremiseThe Bourne Legacy follows the development of a beat-up Kenneth Kitson (Jeremy Renner) into a CIA assassin with a knack for creatively killing men and jumping from tree to tree like a flying squirrel. We also get highly impressed CIA agent mentors played by Edward Norton, Albert Finney, and Joan Allen. Outside of promising to be our era’s male answer to La Femme Nikita, few plot elements are known.
Then there’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the fantasy take on what really happened during the Civil War and our 16th president’s role in the events. Unfortunately, this trailer lets on even less than Bourne‘s. We know Abraham Lincoln is a master of the axe and vampire hunt, and that vampires are a menacing factor in the Civil War. The only line of dialogue adds epicness, first by quoting the Bible about the second coming of Jesus in Revelations 6:7-8, second by sounding eerily like Johnny Cash. We like the ideas for both films; unfortunately, we don’t know enough about either to make a decision. Will The Bourne Legacy just be a story of Jeremy Renner’s fairy-tale transformation into a successful CIA assassin? Or will Renner also go rogue? With Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, why is Honest Abe so good at twirling an axe? Why does he hate vampires? And why does he sound like Johnny Cash? With so many loose ends, we don’t know which one to pick.Advantage: Tie
Killer LeadsBoth movies’ stars have to deliver action-packed performances, and from the just the look of things, The Bourne Legacy‘s Jeremy Renner and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter‘s Benjamin Walker are pretty convincing. Renner, who has been on screen for over 15 years, has nabbed two Oscar nominations since 2010, for The Hurt Locker and The Town. Add to the mix his recent roles in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and the soon-to-be-released Avengers, and all signs point to a great performance in The Bourne Legacy.
Benjamin Walker, though 12 years younger than Renner, is a Juilliard graduate who has performed on screen and stage. Though he hasn’t had starring roles in big-time action flicks like Renner, Walker has had practice playing a president. In 2010, he walked away from the role of Beast in X-Men: First Class to play Andrew Jackson in the Broadway rock musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. (Fun fact: this is also where he met his future wife, Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep.) However, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter just doesn’t let us see how successful Walker is at portraying the mythic president, although we give him credit for rocking the top hat with panache. With The Bourne Legacy, Renner’s resume just has us more convinced.Advantage: The Bourne Legacy
Supporting CastBoth movies have skilled actors in supporting roles. Bourne Legacy is chock-full of talent, boasting such names as Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Albert Finney (Big Fish), David Strathairn (Goodnight and Good Luck), Joan Allen (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum), and Oscar Isaac (Drive). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, meanwhile, has Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double), Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau), Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale), and model Erin Wasson model in her first serious film role. Our brains are telling us to go with The Bourne Legacy, but our guts say Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Though some of its actors are a bit greener than those in The Bourne Legacy’s cast, fresh faces, especially ones as talented as these, are always intriguing. Also, we’ll watch Dominic Cooper in anything he makes—like Mamma Mia, which we watched for a solid 15 minutes.Advantage: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Hardcore FactorIt’s obvious that neither The Bourne Legacy nor Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a wimpy movie. Both lead characters are killing machines. In The Bourne Legacy’s trailer, we see Renner go from beat-up mess to a trained assassin even more talented than Matt Damon’s Bourne. In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, we get a similar transformation. With this movie, Lincoln is no longer just the iconic president of the 19th century; he has a new beefed-up mythology. (And, considering the powerful tree-chopping scenes, maybe we’ll also get the badass backstory to Lincoln logs, too?) We’re going to give it to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter here, not because a killer President impresses us more, but honestly, the whole “muscular stranger with a secret past who’s really good at killing people” story line was monopolized in our hearts by Ryan Gosling in Drive. Sorry, Bourne, you never stood a chance.Advantage: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Source MaterialIn essence, both films are fairly original stories. Though Bourne is the name of an Eric Van Lustbender book, that is all it shares with the novel, as the screenplay follows a newly fabricated character. Of course, however new Jeremy Renner’s character may be, there will be some similarities between the fourth and previous three Bourne movies. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, the New York Times bestseller which served as the basis of the film, is perhaps, then, a bit more original. Outside of the parts it quite obviously lifts from history, we can safely say the story of a vampire-hunting Abraham Lincoln has never been seen before.Advantage: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
DirectorsBoth films’ directors are talented craftsmen. The Bourne Legacy‘s Tony Gilroy has written more films than he has directed movies; Gilroy’s writing credits include The Devil’s Advocate, the three movies of the Bourne trilogy, the adaption of Armageddon, and many more, but he has only directed two films prior to this one: Michael Clayton and Duplicity. While Michael Clayton was a critical success, nabbing an Oscar for Tilda Swinton, Duplicity did not share a similar fate. Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch), the visionary Kazakhstan-born director and producer of American and Russian films, helms Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, his first American directorial project in four years; and Tim Burton, another visionary director is producing the project. Honestly, both Gilroy and Bekmambetov seem more than comfortable in their disparate genres: Gilroy’s government thrillers and Bekmambetov’s action-packed fantasies. We can’t pick between the two.Advantage: Tie
VerdictWe know both movies are going to be adrenaline-filled thrillers. Considering the directors, acting talent and high production value, we doubt the movies are going be unimpressive. Even the fourth Bourne movie seems to take a nice turn for the film franchise, and Jeremy Renner is a pitch-perfect lead. Unfortunately for The Bourne Legacy, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just fresher in mythology, acting and vision. We already know what can happen when a troubled man becomes a high-octane killer. But we definitely don’t know what’s in store when Abraham Lincoln becomes the baddest vampire-killing president of them all.Winner: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
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