I’m all for titles that spawn preposterous reactions and incredulity among the public, but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s begs “notice me.” It is so strangely concocted, with a noun and an adjective strung together with little to no connection, that it demands you see it. The film takes one man’s bestselling novel and gives it the seventy million dollar+ Hollywood treatment, and by the end, it doesn’t walk out entirely gutted, but with some limbs missing.
That’s right, this was a novel, but I’m sure that fact is seldom known by the public. After weeks of seeing the trailer in theaters, for many different films, reactions were always different, yet there was always spry laughs coming from some audience members. A friend of mine stated, “I doubt that was what the director was going for.” I disagree, as it brings me back to the incredulity part I was talking about. The idea is so strange, so cockamamie, and sounds so hilarious that while you’re laughing, you’re hiding the fact you want to see the film. An intelligent marketing plan if you ask me, but execution beats marketing intelligence.
Benjamin Walker, who looks impeccably like a young Liam Neeson, jumps into the shoes and suit of our sixteenth president, and is holding a monumental grudge against Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), the man who poisoned his mother. When Barts informs Lincoln he is an immortal vampire, the bearded man is taken under the wing of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who tells him that he can teach him to become a skilled vampire hunter. Along the way, the man reconnects with an old African American boy he grew up with and Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the women who would eventually become his wife.
Director Timur Bekmambetov has taken the Tim Burton approach (who unsurprisingly has a credit on this picture) to the film and has given a dark and eerie look to it. Seeing it in 2D, I can’t imagine how dingy and foggy the picture must’ve looked in the third dimension, what with the muted colors that are already muted and the loss of brightness when there is almost none to be lost. The cinematography, and of course, Benjamin Walker’s brave performance as an ax wielding Lincoln, are the two things the film can offer before the premise begins to catch up with us.
This is a film that was better an idea, or possibly a novel, than a one hundred and five minute picture. To begin with, it has an immensely pompous attitude towards this “vampire” premise, when really, its goal should be to achieve campiness and not a long-lasting impact on people. Brief escapism if you will. The whole picture neglects to recognize its absurd, revisionist ideas and treats the film as a masculine period piece established on modest obscurity. The film isn’t modestly obscure but fully obscure, and it’s unclear whether Seth Grahame-Smith (the writer of the film and the novel) wants us to laugh at it, although he makes very little attempt at black humor, a feat that would’ve been welcomed with open arms by myself, or if he wants us to sincerely care about it.
There is a scene early on where Barts and Lincoln are fighting in a field, where CGI horses are racing pasts at stunning speeds. They are dodging, weaving, and carefully slipping under the horses’ bodies for a good three or four minutes before Barts picks up a full horse and throws it at Lincoln like it’s nothing. The film needed more ridiculous scenes like this, rather than monotonous action set pieces. The final sequence, involving a speeding train on a burning bridge, works great, yet, still occupies that unnecessary level of indulgence.
As far as an impact on the audience, it seems the only thing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will succeed at is having a legion of internet users creating immature, mildly amusing, childlike SNL title/video parodies featuring other famed political icons. As a film itself, it is a cute idea, blown up on the big screen in a strangely pretentious way. Audiences are likely to appreciate the absurdity of it all, but if not, there’s always the cult following business…
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, and Marton Csokas. Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov.