Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
PLOT: Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) fights a life-long battle with vampires. Oh yeah, and he also finds time to become president, fight the civil war, and free the slaves. What a guy!
REVIEW: Whether or not you're going to enjoy ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER depends entirely on what your reaction was the first time you saw the title and heard the premise. If you can't possibly see the humour, or potential for fun in the idea of Abe Lincoln fighting vampires- Timur Bekmambetov's movie probably isn't going to change your mind. However, if you thought the idea sounded kinda cool- then you're in for a damn good time.
It probably helps if you've read Seth Grahame-Smith's novel, which is a fun alternate-history romp, construed as entries from Lincoln's lost diary. Like his other hit book, PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES, the novel was decidedly tongue-in-cheek, although perhaps sensing that a jokey premise might not sustain a film, Grahame-Smith, who also penned the screenplay, and Bekmambetov plays this relatively straight. While the name Tim Burton has also been touted quite a bit, with him on-board as producer, to me this feels 100% like Bekmambetov's show, with this having way more in common with NIGHTWATCH and WANTED, than any of Burton's films.
The result is a high-energy action flick, which is about as outlandish and unbelievable as any recent superhero movie we've seen, but also a damn fun way to spend 105 minutes. It certainly doesn't waste anytime getting to the carnage, with the murder of Lincoln's mother (played by a blink and you'll miss her Robin McLeavy- from THE LOVED ONES) spurring him onto a life fighting the undead. He's lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Henry (Dominic Cooper), an elegant assassin- with a particular dislike of vampire king maestro Adam (Rufus Sewell)- who keeps the undead well fed in the south on the blood of slaves.
Lincoln's pursuit of justice naturally paves the way for the white house, and it's probably Lincoln's evolution from a Van Helsing style warrior into the great emancipator that feels a bit undercooked- with him suddenly going from shop clerk to president in the span of a montage, but alas, this is popcorn fare, and not a history lesson. In the lead, we get fresh-faced Benjamin Walker- who brings the requisite nobility, and gravitas to the part. He's particularly effective as the young, axe-wielding Lincoln, and he wisely plays the role straight, rather than a wink-wink, I'm Abe Lincoln kinda way. He also handles himself really well in the fight scenes, which, in this movie is way more important than whether or not he can deliver the Gettysburg address properly (although he can and does). As the future Mrs. Lincoln, Mary Todd, we get Mary Elizabeth Winstead- although she comes off as mostly window dressing for most of the film, only figuring in the dialogue scenes, which seem to only exist to give audience members a few minutes to recover before the next vampire slaying extravaganza.
Of course, you don't go to a film called ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER expecting much in the way of drama, but rather to see Abe stalking the undead, and that you get in gooey, blood-soaked R-rated detail. You've got to give Bekmambetov credit for his refusal to go the PG-13 route, and like WANTED, the carnage is heavily stylized, and ultra-gory. Remember the infamous curve the bullet scene in WANTED? Well, here we get even more over the top action set-pieces, including an early stampede featuring hundreds of computer animated stallions, with the vamp baddie literally chucking them Abe's way, and him leaping from horseback to horseback like an old-west Jackie Chan. All in 3D of course. Sound insane? You betcha, but it's insane in a fun way rather than a BATTLESHIP way.
The cherry on top of the cupcake though, has to be the final battle royale set upon a speeding locomotive carrying silver to help beat the vamps at Gettysburg (yup- most of the Confederate army turned out to be vampires- whodathunkit!). Watching Walker as the now-middle aged Lincoln, battling vamps by the dozens on top of the speeding train, alongside Anthony Mackie as his grizzled, life-long sidekick had me grinning from ear to ear at the sheer preposterousness of it all- but luckily by this point, suspension of disbelief had long since kicked in. Frankly, it's in completely off-the-wall scenes like this that make me like Bekmambetov. His movies only ever really hit their stride once the lunacy kicks in- and there's a whole lot of that here. However, some of the technical credits here seem a bit out of step with his vision. The photography by Caleb Deschanel is quite traditional, where maybe a more stylized approach would have been better. The score by Henry Jackman also seems a little too traditionally heroic, where again- something as unconventional as Bekmambetov's aesthetic might have taken this up a notch. I prefer it when movies like this go all the way crazy instead of half-crazy, but that's just me.
Let's face it- if you want a history lesson, wait for Steven Spielberg's Daniel Day-Lewis-starrer, LINCOLN. But, if you want to see dozens upon dozens of vampires get hacked to pieces against a stylized historical canvas- this is for you. The action is plentiful, the 3D is errrrrr...kinda-3D (given that most of it takes place at night time- this won't be the film that sells you), but the tone is just right. Again, it really all boils down to whether or not you can go with the premise. If you can, this is a well-made action romp. If not- stay home. As for me- I had a good enough time, and I think a lot of you will too.
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|Extra Tidbit:||I'll bet Spielberg's movie doesn't have any decapitations by axe. And if it does...well, then I want to see it more than ever.|