The new trailer for Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s next movie, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, starts with the Gettysburg Address. You don’t need to know anything else to extrapolate that the tone of the movie will be hagiographical at best. I mean, I know it’s Spielberg, I don’t expect it to be a challenging Paul Thomas Anderson epic drama, but couldn’t they have at least picked a road less traveled? You start a trailer with the Gettysburg Address, you might as well just scratch the whole thing and replace it with a big white screen saying “LIKE if you think Lincoln was swell, SHARE if you think Lincoln was boss! ;-).”
I doubt they will be showcasing some of Lincoln’s more controversial statements, such as this at an 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas in Charleston, Illinois: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.” And they will probably also omit the part where he shuts down any newspaper that looks at him funny.
Maybe it will come out on the Special Edition DVD.
Now, I don’t need any more reason to be hated for my political leanings, so I’ll leave that thorny issue of whether I dig Lincoln as much as everyone else aside, but my point is that yes, big-ups for Lincoln for ending slavery – I don’t know my exact ethnic make-up but, if you see my photo up there, it will be clear that abolition was, at least, like, 72% directly beneficial to me — but give him some depth, will you? That quote I showed you earlier came from a time when Lincoln was still running for senator, so maybe they could have built a character arc around that, where he’s an abolitionist who doesn’t especially like black people at the beginning, and then at the end of the film he learns that racism is not cool either. I don’t know, something. The guy already has a huge statue, everybody loves him, let’s give him a little humanity, no? Otherwise it will just look like a campaign video for a guy who stopped running for president a while ago, and you can replace Daniel Day-Lewis with a cardboard cutout of Honest Abe giving the thumbs up cool Jesus-style.
Yes, I haven’t seen the film since it hasn't come out, so I shouldn’t be judging it so thoroughly from a mere preview, but I could wager all the contents of my wallet right now – about two bucks, a pack of expired gum, and two dead things that could be flies but without some forensics I can’t be sure – that the eponymous character in the film will be as hollow and one-dimensional as a… like… something very hollow and one-dimensional. Sort of wrote myself into a corner there.
Anyway, I look forward to watching it. I know it sort of contradicts my banter up there, but I honestly think it could be a good film. I like Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis is already reason enough to buy a ticket, and I may even be crying like Natalie Portman peeling onions during a sandstorm by the end of it, but, after seeing that trailer, I expect my tears to be stagnant and unfulfilling, unlike the refreshing, bold tears I could be shedding had the movie been a little more daring.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer for Lincoln, opening in theaters November 9.