Even though nobody asked for it, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter enjoyed a wide release this past weekend in just about every major movie theater in the country. Sometimes I'm baffled as to how a film like this gets a greenlight and huge distribution while films like Trick R' Treat never even see the light of a projector. Still...Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter serves as a fun film. That is, if you can keep from taking it too seriously.
AL:VH (this is what we'll refer to the film going forward) was the brainchild of Seth Grahame-Smith who wrote a novel based on the notion that Lincoln kept a secret journal accounting his extracurricular exploits as a hunter of vampires. I'm not too sure if Grahame-Smith wrote from factual archived sources or what have you, but I'm pretty confident that I'm not the only one in the world who finds the idea of one of our country's fore fathers kicking bloodsucker ass absolutely absurd. However, if you're in the mood for a soulless film filled with historical fun and style, then AL:VH will surely entertain.
Now, I don't wanna come off as the kind of film reviewer that keeps excusing major plot/script issues for the sake of mindless entertainment. I realize that my last few forays into big budget cinema have been a bit on the forgiving side. Excusing proper story-telling for spectacular cinematic eye candy. I fully enjoy having my brain challenged as much as tickled. But, the sad fact is that, often times, you really need to go into a film expecting nothing more than a forgettable good time. Having said that, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.
Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov has a fucking long name...and he also knows his way around an action scene. He's written and/or directed Night Watch, Day Watch and Wanted. Fast-paced films full of far-fetched action scenes as well as stylized direction. And as fun as these films are, they aren't really known for subtlety and depth. He only has directing duties on AL:VH...so, the film's shortcomings can't all really be blamed on Mr. Bekmambetov (try saying that 5 times fast). He works the slow motion/sped up/pause/slow motion style so effortlessly, you'd think he was trying to dethrone the father of this filmmaking method, Mr. Zach Snyder. I've read reviews panning this particular style of action...but, I kinda like it. I feel it to be a sort of flexing of one's filmmaking prowess. A kind of showboating. I don't mind that kind of stuff.
The kind of stuff I do mind is character development and proper storytelling. Here, those things are far and few in between. The entire film feels as fast-paced as the action sets. I understand that the film is about one of the most iconic Presidents in U.S. History and we already are privy to most of the events in his life...but, would it killed the writers to create a more compelling back story for Mr. Lincoln and the love of his life, Mary Todd? I mean, when the man proposes to her...it feels so random and forced because they haven't even fucking kissed yet. Don't worry...if you payed attention in history class, that part isn't really a spoiler...because, well...we know that they married in real life.
These kinds of development flaws are pretty prevalent throughout the entire course of the film. Even the part where Lincoln does his training in preparation for his new vampire hunting responsibilities feels so rushed and artificial, I wondered if he was actually born with the skill to chop a tree down with one swing. Was he like a fucking mutant or something? Were his superhuman kung fu abilities awakened by his desire for revenge? Well...the film doesn't care in educating you with such details. Instead, it wants to show you some cool shit. And luckily, AL:VH has cool shit in spades.
So, aside from the hollow storytelling, the film boasts an accurate retelling of our country's history, including the inspiration for the Emancipation Proclamation as well as accounts of the Civil War, the underground railroad (there's one scene that sent chills down my spine) and the rise of our 16th U.S. President. Even his real life closest friend, Joshua Speed, shows up for historical accuracy. Unfortunately, the film only cares to mention one of his four children and never cares to delve into who Robert E. Lee was...as well as the whole confederate army. Might've been nice to see Lee enter into some kind of immortal pact with the film's antagonist, Adam (played by Rufus Sewell and his usual despicable douchebag brand of acting).
It's also important to note that the film is filled with amazing talent in the acting department. Lincoln himself is played by the very capable Benjamin Walker, who could seriously play Liam Neeson in a biopic someday should ever the opportunity present itself (seriously, it was goddamn distracting as to how much this guy looks like Neeson!). The always awesome Anthony Mackie plays one of Lincoln's oldest friends in the film, Will Johnson. Even the beautifully ravishing Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays the role of Mary Todd. It is with all sincerity when I say that I wouldn't mind if Winstead played every female lead from now until ever. Because...well, she's hot.
Anyway, gore is aplenty in AL:VH, too. There is all kinds of bloody mayhem happening all throughout the film. Unfortunately, most of it is of the CGI variety and not the practical FX standard. Which, ultimately adds to the point that the film suffers from being too over-the-top in artificial spectacle.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is pretty much what one would expect from a film called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter...just don't go into it expecting anything more.
Thanks for reading,