Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an alternate history action movie which imagines one of the most beloved presidents of the United States of America as a part time slayer of the blood sucking undead. The screenplay (and the original book on which the film is based) is brought to us by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. So it seems his penchant for taking well known tales and putting his own twist of them continues unabated.
The background story is totally Batman; a young Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses his mother killed by a vampire and as an adult vows revenge. Then it’s pretty much Batman Begins for a while as Abe is inducted into the ways of vampire hunting by Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), an experience vampire hunter.
The scenery and sets and pretty but aside from the action scenes there isnt anything particularly arresting about Abe Lincoln’s time as a vampire assassin, where he receives tip offs from his master to kill the smith or the baker – all of whom happen to be vampires. Granted there are some visually impressive, if chaotically shot action set pieces, including a fight scene that takes place in the middle of a stallion stampede.
Director Timur Bekmambetov brings his brand of graphical flair and visual effects he had with the Night Watch and Day Watch films, but the question has to be asked: does it even matter that this is Abraham Lincoln? Could this role in fact be filled by any action dude – or perhaps a time-traveling Batman? For the longest time, the answer is: yes.
(And it would have been totally cool if it was Batman.)
But then, decades later, we follow Lincoln as we know him – as the 16th president of America. Suddenly the background of civil war and slavery comes to the foreground – and now Abe’s struggles with war, politics, dissent the slave-trade become that much more difficult when immortal enemies are factored in.
Shame it took more than half the running time of the film to get here – but holy crab cakes Batman – the sight of a fifty year old Abraham Lincoln donning his signature stovepipe hat and formal attire while wielding an axe and dispatching vampires…well, it’s a beautiful ballet of blood and blades. Not to mention the role is still played by Benjamin Walker thanks to some amazing make up effects.
It’s the kind of idea that seems so silly – and frankly, it is – much like a t-rex on roller skates or a squid chess tournament. Yet witnessing it through a haze of smoke and stuttering camera effects, it has an undeniable element of cool appeal.
Besides, there is strength to the idea of an action hero whose righteous ideals extend beyond killing people and segue into politics. Just imagine if Die Hard’s John McFarlane went on to be mayor of New York. So in the end it kind of works…well, it works as well as you’d expect from a film called “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is in cinemas now.
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