Cert: 15 Runtime: 105 mins Director: Timur Bekmambetov Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Jimmi Simpson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rufus Sewell
History prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to wild deeds. History remembers the battle, but forgets the blood. However history remembers me before I was a President, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth…
Fourscore and a few days ago, I encountered the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln kill vampires. This is one of the strangest films I have ever encountered. As someone that has a degree in History this really does give a very different interpenetration then we have read in text books. Although I knew Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was based on a novel, I’ve not read the novel. I have, however, heard good things. This is most likely not the novel the film was based on. In 1818 a young boy by the name of Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses his mother’s murder and vows to get revenge on the man who took her life. In his late teens he finally plucks up the courage to enact his revenge but when he fires a pistol at the head of the assassin, the man simply gets back up and attacks the young Lincoln. The young man is saved by a strange man called Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who tells the future President about the existence of vampires and teaches him the art of killing them. Lincoln dedicates his life to the destruction of vampires but finds in later life that words and deeds outweigh the power of his axe and he eventually becomes a Lawyer and later President of the Union. During his Presidency the vampire rich South declares war on the North in the hope of creating a nation for vampires.
A slick, action heavy vampire slayer movie that has more in common with Blade than Interview with a Vampire, like the novel, this re-imagines a history in which Abe Lincoln became a vengeance lusting, ax wielding vampire hunter, where vampires have a part in American History. The action is great, but sadly, everything else is mediocre. While the film presents some interesting ideas, the acting and plot are mostly ho-hum in favor of a rushed history lesson and speeding from one action piece to another.Timur is an odd choice for this film, but probably one of the most inspired. He has a way of creating slick action, and it’s no different here. From his creative uses of slow motion to the interesting action set pieces, in particular the final one on a train and an inventive one through a stampede of horses, Timur flaunts his skills at creating over the top action and reveling in it. And for sure, the action is the best part. With demonstrations of martial skills with an ax and cinematography that thankfully gives us a great view of the action, you’re in for a more creative action packed film than the usual vampire hunting affair.Sadly, beyond this, the majority of the film is mostly bogged down by historical details that are somewhat skimmed over and a plot that isn’t all that interesting.
Every character beyond Lincoln and his teacher, Henry, are mostly dull and cliché. Adam is the cliché, high class vampire villain with an air of superiority. Will is the token black guy, Abe’s best friend since childhood and his eventual sidekick. Even the lovely Mary Winstead, who plays Mary Todd, is little more than eye candy (although, admittedly, she delivers one very solid, emotional scene that demonstrates her fantastic acting abilities). The script as well is as much to blame. There is a lot here that should be interesting, like the vampires involvement in the civil war. It’s a fascinating idea, but it’s rolled over in favor of watching Abe kick vampire butt.Now there have been a lot of complaints about this film having no humor, and quite frankly, I am glad it didn’t. Yes, several things seem funny, but the fact that this is a straight forward film that takes it’s vampire involvement serious is a good thing. Had this been as comical as it’s title suggests, it would have been a lot worse than it is. But as it stands, it is a slightly more than mediocre film with some great action scenes. It’s nothing to write home about, and I probably won’t be renting it to watch it again, but it was a decent and entertaining way to kill a couple hours.