Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Pleasantly enjoyable, surprisingly so at times, and visually slick.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a silly enough title for a high concept SyFy project. It is, however, 20th Century Fox’s other big 15 rated 3D release. The iconic president is shown in early days to hate the kind that attacked his family, and with the help of Dominic Cooper’s Miyagi character, Abe learns that twirling an axe around his fingers - with a dollop of silver on the blade for good measure - will undo the undead. As he sets up shop in a small town, a contract killer for Cooper’s head honcho, he infiltrates the town, and finds love in Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Mary. In addition, Abe bones up on law to help his friend Will, Anthony Mackie, out. That leads, naturally to his desire for public office. But at his core, Abe wants to take out the head vampire, the one that let the horrors of his family’s decimation come to be.
That man is Rufus Sewell, and he may be the least threatening vampire this side of Twilight. He smirks and monologues, he offers the sneer and the big teeth, but there’s no force, no presence, at no point do you ever think Abe is in trouble. Notably because the rules of history decree he’ll survive, but also because Abe can swing an axe with superhuman speed, and has the agility one might have had they been bitten by a radioactive spider. He’s a vampire hunter, but he also seems to be some sort of superhero all of a sudden.
Timur Bekmambetov helms the film with a great hand, as he makes his first leap into the third dimension, the playful, often kinetic visuals are toned down so that the 3D isn’t too painful, and movement in the frame is subdued for the sake of the visual elements. It may just be that there are some directors that understand this technology. It’s mostly utilised for things to fly out, a bullet going through the audience, lots of vampires leaping in scary ways, but there are subtle uses that work just as well, if not better. A subtle hand, that doesn’t really join up with a script whose opening act is awfully similar to Wanted, and whose last act is a little too action-heavy, losing sense of the world built for the sake of exposition and explosions. The Civil War is well realised, but at cost to the core protagonists, and antagonist.
The leads are relatively good, with Benjamin Walker resembling a young Liam Neeson as much as he does Young Lincoln, and a joy to watch be both stoic and boyish at times, especially with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the standout performer in the film. She offers a lot more to her character than any film about a famous figure killing mythical beasts should. Dominic Cooper is a bit of a wet squib, a nice screen presence, but there’s nothing to him here. Antony Mackie also fails to really connect or come alive in the film, but he feels more of an afterthought than Cooper.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire has more than enough slicing and dicing of vampires, in shiny 3D and stodgy CGI, and some nice action beats, which avalanche into a bit of a mess come the final third. It’s pleasantly enjoyable, surprisingly so at times, and visually well done. It just needs more bite, a bit more life injected into it. As it stands, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is adequate, without offering much for the audience to chew on.