Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Nothing says "Happy Fourth of July" like watching a famous American president behead vampires with an axe.
July 3, 2012 8:55 amJune Dakota
I first saw the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter when I went to go see The Hunger Games. All I'd heard about the film was that it was based on an excellent graphic novel of the same name (full disclosure: I haven't read it). What I learned from the trailer I could've assumed from the title: there's Abraham Lincoln, and he's fighting some vampires. Also, Civil War times are happening. The Hunger Games audience laughed at it, but then again, most of them would consider Twilight high art, so I reserved judgment.
The cast puts on a surprisingly strong performance – with such archetypical characters and basic, comic-book-style dialogue, I would've expected a few wooden performances, but everyone is alive and sympathetic. Abraham Lincoln is played with aplomb by Benjamin Walker, who manages to deliver Lincoln's speeches genuinely, without looking like a caricature. I was significantly impressed that he created a multifaceted Lincoln, as believable in his public appearances as he was in his interactions with family and friends. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is darling as Mary Todd Lincoln, and it's good to see her former Firefly castmate Alan Tudyk as Stephen Douglas as well. Rufus Sewell (whom I'd only seen previously in Dark City) is an excellent super-vampire villain – at once evil, frightening, and maddeningly self-assured. Jimmi Simpson, as Lincoln's Springfield, Illinois boss, friend, and landlord, is this generation's Christian Slater (no really, my friend kept insisting he really was Christian Slater).
Visually, the film is stunning. The makeup is phenomenal – you'd swear it was really Abraham Lincoln there on the screen, childhood to adulthood (although it's noticeable that significantly less effort was spent aging the supporting cast). I was especially impressed with the excellent person-to-vampire-and-back-again transitions – this movie makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer look like Troll 2 by comparison. There is also a fight scene taking place atop a moving steam-engine-led train that was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen: elegant fight choreography, after dark, with vampires appearing and disappearing through the steam and smoke and embers...glorious!
I did expect the film to have a certain "awesomeness" factor, and it generally lives up to expectations, but there was a certain oomph missing from the final product I couldn't lay my finger on. Abraham Lincoln is portrayed as a completely badass vampire-hunting maniac, but there's little stress over whether he'll win any given battle with a vampire, because we already know he survives long enough to be shot in a theater after the war ends. Though to be fair, it's hard to find a more awesome weapon of choice than an axe – how could anyone look uncool mercilessly slaughtering soulless demons with a silver axe? There are some holes in the plot that are mildly bothersome, but I assumed the missing pieces were filled by the novel and were too detailed to include. And speaking of the novel, there are a couple of scenes that make way less sense on film than they might on a page. There's a fight scene, for instance, that takes place on top of a stampede of wild horses. I repeat: the fight scene is literally on top of a wild horse stampede. The scene seems a little unnecessary, and the visuals are so ridiculous that it set the audience in my theater giggling. And if you're a big fan of real-life history, I'd strongly recommend approaching this movie with a sense of humor or a bottle of Scotch, or both. Historical fiction would be a massive understatement here – historical pipe dream is probably more accurate.
Ultimately, I'm giving the film the rating I chose because I wanted it to be better than it was. Abraham Lincoln looks cool swinging an axe, but the story is simple and somewhat predictable. The vampires are suitably scary, but nothing new (to be truthful, I found the vampires extremely stressful and spent much of the vampire transition scenes with my eyes closed and ears covered. I'm a sensitive creature, though, and not an appropriate gauge of the average audience-goer's reaction to such things). The acting is solid, but the special effects are the only stand-out element of the film as a whole. A great summer blockbuster and a heckuva good time, but it's probably not necessary to see this one in the theater – save your dollars and wait a few weeks until it's available for streaming.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING||3.5|