- The Cast
- Character Development
- Action Scenes
Yesterday I got the greatest history lesson of my life. Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tells the real story of America’s 16th president. Armed with a silver axe and the help of some unlikely friends, Lincoln sets out on a mission of vengeance that turns into a noble and supernatural quest to do what’s right for all. In some areas (mostly choreography and character development) it doesn’t live up to expectations. However, clever plot twists, badass quotes, and excellent acting make this horror/fantasy/comedy/action movie worth seeing.
Throughout the movie, Abe (Benjamin Walker) grows up from an immature and reckless young man to a respectable and moral husband, president, and vampire slayer. Most previews and posters show him as pretty one-sided, using the instantly appealing image of an axe-slinging hardcore killing machine, which he is, but only sometimes. Other times we see him as a humble shop assistant, as a confused and vulnerable lost soul, as a loyal friend, a devoted father. Walker definitely shows the whole picture with his portrayal of Lincoln.
Equally brilliant is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as wife Mary Todd. She comes off infinitely sweet without seeming two-dimensional. Her impeccable acting contributes to an unexpectedly heartwarming side of the film.
Dominic Cooper plays charming mentor Henry Sturgess. Henry trains Lincoln in the art of emotionless killing with a manner similar to Tyler Durden of Fight Club. He’s a little heavy on the hair gel and a little cliche in his bad-boy manner but is still instantly appealing.
Jimmi Simpson plays Joshua Speed, another cynical friend. Fast-talking card sharp, you can tell Simpson’s having fun with the role.
This had the possibility of being a straightforward quirky slasher film with a twist and nobody would’ve faulted them for it. It could’ve been nothing more than a cheesy movie attached to an awesome title and I’ve no doubt it would still be a popular money-maker. Luckily all involved pulled through and brought it up to the next level — while still not taking itself too seriously. It’s deviated from the book in several ways — like most book-to-movie projects, it’s inevitable that characters, motives, and events get tweaked — but it still tells an intriguing story. Just when audiences feel completely confident that they know everything there is to know about what’s going on, they’re tossed a new piece of information that pulls the film into a new direction. It gets off to a slow start (see my comments in “The Bad” section below), but once it gets going it doesn’t stop.
The First 30 Minutes
It takes a while for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to gain momentum. There’s action going on, but none of it really means anything. In the beginning, we see fight scene after fight scene — it’s fun to watch, but enough’s enough. Give us something with substance already! We’re told about the emotions Abe’s feeling — anger, desire for revenge, etc. — but we’re not really shown them. Eventually, the movie accelerates into something with more depth, but there were definitely some points in the first third of the movie where I was wondering, “Is this all?”
It’s not individual character development I have a problem with, but rather the relationships between characters. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has oodles of interesting characters who don’t really react with one another much. For instance, there was a lot going on in the relationship between Abe and Mary Todd that could’ve been explored and wasn’t. Likewise with the bromance between Lincoln and childhood friend William Johnson (Anthony Mackie). Lincoln befriended William when they were boys and their relationship is especially meaningful in the context of less friendly black-white interchanges in the country. William becomes Abe’s assistant and is there for him through good and bad. Yet somehow they come off as people who are just existing in the same place as each other rather than lifelong friends. I don’t think this is the fault of the actors. Walker and Mackie did the best with what they were given, but a lot of the time and energy of the film was spent on flashy action scenes rather than plumping up character relations.
I expected and looked forward to lots of gratuitous and cheesy violence. The premise of “former president destroys undead” does not promise subtlety or seriousness. But often the montages and fight scenes went from awesome to acceptably cheesy to just plain awkward. There’s only so much footage of Abe twirling an axe that I can handle and same goes to improbable fight/chase scenes. If the whole movie was overflowing with ridiculousness, then I wouldn’t have minded and I’d have appreciated the absurdity. But the overall feel of the movie is, surprisingly, not full-force, non-stop bloody action. So the scenes which are charging full-speed-ahead come off as out of place and a little embarrassing.
Flashbacks, Flashbacks, Flashbacks
It’s nice that there’s some background behind Lincoln’s actions. Too many stories involving the supernatural forgo explanations and concern themselves more with fancy effects than with actual story. Luckily, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter provides some supporting details. Unfortunately, the execution isn’t so hot. The occasional flashback is necessary for the story to make sense, but their frequency is dizzying. The important stuff that happened in the past kept interrupting important stuff happening in the present. Instead of contributing to the complete picture, the flashbacks made the movie seem fractured.
Overall: 3 Stars out of 5
There’s a handful of mishaps in this movie, but nothing unforgivable. A couple of techniques fall flat and some scenes drag on while other aspects are left unexplored, but the good outweighs the bad. The plot was bizarre, fun and oddly touching. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is for anyone looking for something a little out of the ordinary. It’s definitely well worth the ticket price.
’Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ Movie Trailer