Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter Review by Someone Who Didn’t Read The Book
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a movie that in some ways I’m hard pressed to critique. I found it fun, silly and enjoyable and though it had more than one thing for which I can (and will) critique it… I sort of don’t want to.
See, I’m not sure how seriously you really should take a movie that has the premise of an alternate history in which the late president of the United States is a monster killing, matrix style fighting, silver ax wielding badass. The movie occasionally doesn’t seem to know either, but does a good job of walking the line between a nod at history (following major events in the real Lincoln’s life) and a CGI packed action flick.
I won’t go into the plot terribly much, because it really is just take Abraham Lincoln, add some vampires to the story, a sprinkling of historical figures and a plucky group of dedicated friends. Abe is played by Benjamin Walker, who looks at first less like the former president and more like Liam Neeson (he actually played a younger version of Neeson in Kinsey) but morphs into an impressive facsimile as the age makeup gets piled on. The makeup on this character really is pretty impressive, although not all the actors take to it as well. He is trained by a hobbyist vampire hunter, Henry, played by Dominic Cooper. Both characters want revenge for slain loved ones; Abe is after Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) and Henry after the Big Baddie Adam (Rufus Sewell). Mixed in are some of my favorite character actors, like Alan Tudyk and Jimmi Simpson… they’re not given enough to do, but they bring a lot of richness to their moments on screen. Abe turns from a life of slaying to beat vampires in the political arena, as vampires are apparently behind slavery in the south. (This concept sounds silly, but I had the distinct impression from the movie that the book probably fleshed out that idea to something a bit less trite.) Inevitably; Abe’s past comes back to haunt him and he must take up the silver ax of badassery once again.
The movie moves through the events leading up to integral scenes a little too quickly for my taste, with little time to invest in characters or often to understand the flow of events unless you actually know your history. There are some moments that hint at subplots that either were cut, or were perhaps added as fanservice for readers of the book. However; the movie was decided in it’s tone and style and to flesh out those plots and make the movie less absurd it really would needed to be made into multiple films. The pacing was quick, which is better than slow and boring, serving the tone of the fun monster slaying theme. This, to me, really shows what an accomplished director (Timur Bekmambetov of Wanted fame) can do with a shallow but cohesive script. Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the book as well as the screenplay, and though the screenplay wasn’t un-watchable, there were definitely some cringe worthy dialogue moments… but I wasn’t really watching the movie for the dialog. Some of the payout moments of the movie were definitely muted for me by the quick build up, but killing monsters is killing monsters: that’s what everyone was there to see.
Speaking of monsters, the vampires in this movie are monsters! Hooray! Rufus Sewell is especially wonderful as the head vamp, channeling Rutger Hauer as he delivers his lines with relish. I really liked the look of the vamps, they had a mix of lovely oldschool paleness along with some monster moments that reminded me quite a bit of 30 Days of Night, in the best of ways. The vamps are sinister enough to really fear but not so perfect that it’s implausible that normal people can kill them. The script takes joy in killing them in less than plausible but very fun ways, and the audience really seemed to enjoy that as well.
If you are looking for (minus vamps) a historically based fiction, this flick won’t be enjoyable… they play too fast and loose for that (for instance, Abe and Mary only have one child), but if you want to see a pretty stylized world where Abraham Lincoln uses the Civil War to kick some undead butt this is the film for you. Now that I’ve seen it, I want to read the book to uncover all the hinted at subplots.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a fun summer popcorn flick, and should be watched as such.