Abigail is clearly an attempt by Russian filmmakers to create a film with transnational appeal, which makes sense considering the production company, KinoDanz (KD Studios), cast Antonio Banderas in a previous release. In making Abigail, they seem to have had the actors say their lines in English, which must not have sounded good enough for North American distribution on its own, because there is English dubbing laid over the English-speaking Russian actors’ voices. The result is a film that looks like a major Hollywood studio release (the film is distributed by 20th Century Fox CIS), but comes off as poor imitation once the characters begin speaking. Unfortunately, good special effects with sloppy character/plot development are fast becoming the trademark of Hollywood, and in that sense, Abigail isn’t a terrible imitation.
The one thing this steampunk fantasy film does right is world building, creating a unique vision that blends past and future into a unique vision. Unfortunately, much of this has already been done before, and once revealed, the plot feels more derivative than anything else. It feels like the leftover scraps of narrative from a dozen poorly conceived YA fantasy films from the past decade, with the rise of both superhero films and tween book adaptations like Harry Potter and Twilight. Even that would not be terrible to watch if polished enough, and there are certain elements of filmmaking that hit it out of the park. Unfortunately, the other elements are such a massive failure that any positive elements of filmmaking are easy to look past.
When our protagonist and title character is a young girl, the town she lives in begins to suffer a mysterious illness. Unfortunately, before anyone can figure out what the illness is, the town is quarantined by the government officials, with all infected being removed. Ten years later, Abigail (Tinatin Dalakishvili) lives in a world controlled by security forces which she is understandably suspicious of, having lost her father to its strict regime. When Abigail discovers that her long-lost father (played by British actor, Eddie Marsan) may be still alive through clues that he left her, she pairs up with the rebellious figures in town to try and find a way past the quarantine walls.
Within the plot description on the back of the Blu-ray release, it is made clear that beyond the walls is a magical world that has remained hidden from most within the quarantine, though the plot takes a painfully long time to actually get to that point. This is the type of film that doesn’t progress the story very quickly, mostly preoccupied with the presentation of spectacle. And even that has some emptiness to it, because while the action scenes are filled with breathtaking cinematography and extremely competent visual effects, the acting feels like it was done by models. They may look pretty when standing still, but any attempt at dialogue or action choreography is stiff and unconvincing. In other words, the emperor has no clothes.
Even with some unconvincing casting choices which seem only interested in the surface-level appearances, Abigail had potential in the production design. This may have still been a film entertaining to at least captivate the YA audiences, if it weren’t for the disastrous decision to dub the actors. Clearly attempting to capitalize on western audiences, the filmmakers of Abigail instead made a film that feels like it is for nobody. I’m sure Russian audiences would likely rather see the film in their own language (and not just dubbed with it), and American audiences haven’t accepted dubbing since the days of bad kung-fu and spaghetti western releases. I’m afraid the filmmakers over-estimated the ignorance of American audiences, particularly in a year when a foreign film won the highest prize (and many others) at the Academy Awards.
The visual effects used to show the magical abilities of its characters are actually quite effective, and this is only enhanced by the Blu-ray disc’s high definition presentation. Unfortunately, that is the only thing the disc has to offer. There are no extras, on or off the discs. I would have liked even a simple featurette to better understand what the filmmakers were thinking when they made these decisions.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 0/10