To date, no movie has ever been released in seeming conscious connection with a Presidential election, if perhaps only as means of escape with an unrelated plot. But Steven Spielberg's ambitious "Lincoln" isn't going to be an escape from Presidential politics, and instead a reminder of how things haven't really changed in political contentiousness. Concurrently, it's also telling us that perhaps the days of a President with Abraham Lincoln's caliber are strictly and forever buried in a particular past era.
All these elements don't immediately add up to a sense of excitement that floods people into a theater. The mood of the country will have to dictate if people want to be reminded of such things while placing those ideas in comparison to who wins the Presidency on the day this article is being written. Abstractly, Spielberg and his creative team are assuming that people will feel inspired to see "Lincoln" after a Presidential election as a sense of context.
The truth is that most of the country will be exasperated once we determine who our next President is. And wanting to see Lincoln and a divided Congress bickering 150 years ago isn't necessarily going to be at the top of everyone's must-see list. Who wins the Presidency today may also affect the country's mood.
As of this writing, we're looking at a scenario where either candidate winning will create as much or more discord in America than there already has been. Also, the idea of either one winning electorally against the other winning the popular vote could create a situation that instigates the same prolonged, ill feelings after the 2000 Gore-Bush electoral tie. Yes, it would foster renewed feelings of wishing ways toward a Lincoln resurrection.
"Lincoln", though, is going to be a movie that reinvents how we look at the Presidential movie. This won't be for complete fantasy inspiration and more presenting the realities of how harsh the Presidency can and always will be, personally and professionally. It's a film that could easily work once a President is settled into his job rather than after a tumultuous and tedious campaign season.
That's why it's likely the box office for "Lincoln" won't be quite as strong in the next couple of weeks as it could have been if released earlier or later. Back in 2009, I wrote on how advantageous it could have been for Spielberg to release "Lincoln" that year for Honest Abe's 200th birthday. At the time, the country was still riding high on electing the first African-American President from Lincoln's beloved Illinois.
The movie would have been a #1 smash back then, if perhaps different because Liam Neeson was attached to the role at the time. Now, expect perhaps a slight backlash at it as being an overly educative tool in Presidential and Congressional cooperation during a time when part of our population may be more pessimistic on the concept. Much of that may have to be dealt with vicariously by watching James Bond fight his demons and other cretins in "Skyfall" on November 9.
Eventually, though, "Lincoln" will go down in film history as a movie that finally looked at the Presidency though the filter of reality, much like we'll have to do after either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins.
- Steven Spielberg