Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov approaches Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with an absurd seriousness in the dialogue and scripted department, but he lets the action and story remain brainless, which makes this adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel an uneven mix of violence, vamps and deadpan acting.
Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) is without a doubt one of the most famous presidents of all time, but what the public knows about him is very little. The real truth beyond Lincoln is that he’s a vampire hunter, thanks to the help of his friends Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) and Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie). Henry takes Lincoln under his wing and guides him, after Lincoln’s own mother is taken from him by a vampire. Henry and Lincoln train vigorously, which leads to Lincoln going on his own to hunt the demons in the night.
The worst vampire of them all is Adam (Rufus Sewell); the original vamp that plans on converting all of America into blood-thirsty day walkers. Lincoln’s hate for vampires turns into a passion for the White House, which leads him to presidency and an eventual war against the South, which is supported by the vampires.
Lincoln keeps his agenda hidden, even from his wife Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but that only makes his speeches even more aggressive and powerful, because he’s actually battling in two wars, when most think he’s barely winning one.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is as bad as you’d think. I’d almost say it’s worse, but with such a ridiculous concept I’d like to think most people going in don’t have their expectations too high.
On one hand you have an ass-kicking action movie that glorifies its over-the-top violence and doesn’t take itself serious at all. There’s a battle between Lincoln and a vamp that takes place on moving horses and the mixture of horrible CGI combined with the fact that they’re battling on moving fucking horses makes for one epic sequence that can be both laughed at and appreciated.
The 3D adds to the film, allowing every decapitation and throat slit to come at you, with blood and guts shooting all over the screen. It’s never thought of as a means to improve the story, but it does make the film a little more enjoyable and interactive, which is all I ask of the format when used with this kind of mindset.
There’s some really fun action on display that ranges from Lincoln fighting on top of a burning train, to Lincoln going door to door killing random vampires off of a secret coded message, sent by Henry. It’s cheesy, amusing and acceptable, but only because we get to see our 16th President chop countless heads of unsuspecting vampires off with an axe!
But then there’s the other side of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which doesn’t work at all. The dialogue is read completely straight-faced and some of the lengthier scenes stretch on forever, as we see Lincoln and Henry discuss war tactics and the right path for Lincoln to head in. It’s in these scenes where the film drags itself down and becomes an oddly toned mess.
The film’s bipolar structure has it jumping from a blood-soaked axe battle one scene to a dead serious motivational speech the next and it just doesn’t work. Its attempt at being serious ends up weakening the film and making it lose all of its steam.
Benjamin Walker works as a younger Lincoln, because he’s mostly doing ninja-level acrobatics with his trusty axe. There’s not a lot to get behind, but he gives honest Abe a whole new persona. He starts to age and becomes a more mature Lincoln, which makes him look more like Liam Neeson trying to play Lincoln than Walker trying to play Lincoln. The dialogue-heavy final scenes don’t hold any weight, because everyone on screen seems to be confused with the direction of the film.
His wife, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead almost feels like she’s acting in an entirely different movie. She’s dried up, emotionless and mostly acts as a side character that randomly pops up to give Lincoln a reminder of his commitments in life.
Dominic Cooper is really the only standout actor in the film. His character Henry is fleshed out and even given a few bumps in the road to jump over. There’s a point in the film where Henry’s motives start to get foggy, but Cooper translates that into more unintentional comedy and ass-kickery.
The rest of the cast is barely given any time to make their characters feel of any importance, so why bother discussing them? Anthony Mackie is forgettable and Rufus Sewell isn’t all that intimidating as the film’s go-to bad guy.
Tim Burton‘s producer credit doesn’t extend much beyond that of a producer, with the occasional set piece looking extra gothic. I was afraid Burton would try to convert Bekmambetov to the darkish world that he can’t seem to leave, but Bekmambetov keeps the film well-lit, with an occasional shadowy scene or two that helps build up the suspense.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn’t a complete disaster, but it gets pretty close on several occasions. The 3D is fun and gimmicky and the poorly rendered effects seem intentional, if only to add to the laughter, but the serious stuff dampens the film. The lengthy stretches of dialogue cancel out any enjoyment gained from the previous action scene. The film just won’t allow itself to have any fun and in doing so it punishes itself.
Perhaps if they were to go back to the editing room and chop off all of the overly serious dialogue (like Lincoln chops off a vampires head) then maybe there would be a good, but mindless film worth checking out. As it stands Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just a cluttered concoction of bloodshed and chatter.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – 6.5/10