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Kieran’s Rating: 5.5/10
Fused Rating: 6.0/10
(2 reviews total)
With the title Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov bringing his highly stylized approach, here is a movie that really wants a cult audience. It’ll be an uphill battle, as it frustrates as much as it satisfies.
As a young boy, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) saw two of the biggest blights on humanity: slavery and vampirism. It was personified in the form of his father’s boss, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). After his father (Joseph Mawle) is unable to pay his debts, Jack kills Lincoln’s mother (Robin McLeavy) in front of him. Hungry for revenge, a skilled vampire hunter named Henry Struges (Dominic Cooper) teaches Lincoln about vampires and how to kill them using an axe lined with silver. In Springfield, Illinois, Abraham is given targets to kill as he studies to be a lawyer, but his quest evolves from a mission of vengeance to a ideological one to rid the world of slavery and vampires as his political career grows alongside his vampire-hunting exploits.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter delivers on the action, which is when it’s most inventive and fun. Bekmambetov gives us a bloody experience as Lincoln decapitates his way through vampires and swings his axe in such slow motion that Zack Snyder would be embarrassed. Bekmambetov knows how to shoot an action scene and the fight choreography was top notch, though the editing in some scenes was a bit too choppy (no pun intended) and hard to follow. Bekmambetov also employs a very direct use of 3D as he points guns and blades in your face, but much of it was blurry and unfocused as with most poor post-conversions.
Sadly, the $70-million budget was all too clear. The CGI replacements were rather obvious and the Battle of Gettysberg was very limited in scope, taking away the epic feeling one would expect from such an iconic battle. A horse stampede was also ruined by the weak CGI and choppy editing.
Seth Grahame-Smith adapted his own novel here and he has in fact come up with some interesting ideas on vampirism to add to the already rich lore, like why silver is so effective on vampires, why they cannot kill another vampire and how they are able to stand the sunlight.
But at the same time the screenplay has problems. The first half of the movie was fun and action-packed but when Lincoln becomes more involved in politics it starts to take itself way too seriously. You can’t make serious points about racism and slavery when the man making them has been hacking creatures of the night to death. The film needed to loosen up and have more fun with its premise.
As a character Lincoln does evolve from wanting revenge to widening his crusade against a menace, but he story is sluggish at times and skips major moments of his life, fast-forwarding to when he becomes president. It felt like large chunks of the movie were missing and some character actions just happen out of the blue. Hopefully this will result in a director’s cut home release.
Judging Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as a historical piece would be an exercise in foolishness, but I will say this: for a movie that treats the issues of racism and slavery with dead seriousness, it is hard to believe the portrayals of friendly relations between the races at times.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter serves as Walker’s first major movie role, so quite the undertaking for a rookie. He was strongest in full presidential mode, making his grant speeches and leading his nation, but early on he was a bland hero who disappears off the screen compared to the more colorful Cooper (who had a very interesting The Crow-like back story) who seemed to have more fun with his role. Rufus Sewell plays a villain who lacked any real menace or fear and Csokas gave a messy, scenery-chewing performance not helped by some of the film’s worst dialogue. As the romantic lead, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is adequate, giving Mary Todd Lincoln plenty of charm.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is sadly a cheap-looking movie that took itself too seriously, but it is certainly not the worst vampire movie ever made. Stylized action fans will take some enjoyment from it, but it’s not going to be the cult hit it strives to be. Rating: 5.5/10
Simon thought: “Slow-motion blood spurting, vampires and an axe-wielding president should automatically make for an entertaining ride, and for the most part Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter delivers on what its general premise presents. It’s insubstantial stuff to be sure, but it’s often funny, the fight scenes are crisply presented and the effects impressive for the budget. Then it decides to go all serious and rather morose in the eleventh hour and turns into a period biopic that seems like it would be more at home in the forthcoming Spielberg film Lincoln. AL:VH does redeem itself somewhat with a fun set piece as Honest Abe retakes the mantle as slayer of the undead, but by then enough damage has been done to no longer deserve a more glowing review. But I suppose if you know your American history fast-forwarding through that part on home video is a satisfactory option.” Rating: 6.5/10