Genre: Action, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell
This is a film about blood, about revenge, about the love of ones country and the abolishment of slavery… with vampires. I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, staring Benjamin Walker as the axe twirling President, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his lovely wife Mary Todd and Dominic Cooper as his mentor Henry Sturges.
Now I’m not one to judge a film by its title, indeed, if I had done that with treasures such as Trainspotting or Snatch, I’d possibly imagine being bored or grossed out respectively, and to be fair, I’m a fan of the horror genre. I likes me a good vampire hunter and I likes me a good vampire, so I gave this film a shot, with mildly high expectations of the 3D and of the story, which is loosely based on real history.
The film opens with the ending, and the problem with a film about a protagonist who has a strong foundation in history is that you are aware of who lives and who dies. I won’t shout spoilers from the rooftops, but if you know even a small amount of American history you will be aware of who is who and who dies before he dies. This means that the film needs to hook you in with life endangering circumstances that make you forget history and the thing we learn very quickly is that old Abe is not a superhuman, and yet he appears incapable of breaking any bones after his first vampire encounter.
We also learn very quickly that vampires all wear old worldy sunglasses and can turn invisible; they could be anyone and anywhere, and Abe is recruited by one Henry Sturges to help rid the world of them. Well, when I say world I mean Springfield, in Washington State. Now he does this without being told how to identify them and he is simply sent unquestioningly after “targets”; one minute finding it hard to kill one and the next dropping them like flies to his pointy silver axe.
The problem I have with this is that there are three things that make a vampire:
1. They die when poked through the heart with wood (or silver in some cases).
2. They burst into flame/turn to stone in sunlight and are therefore creatures of the night.
3. They drink blood, and they have to do this in secret.
One out of three of these things is addressed, true to form, in the film. The sun thing is dismissed on a whim. In fact a lot of this film revolves around you, as an audience member, forgetting everything you know about vampires and relying on a mythos pushed upon you so quickly that it’s hard to adjust to the new rules. Not including the fact that important members of a community go missing and no one cares.
The acting in the film varies in quality; Benjamin Walker does a grand job of portraying Mr. Lincoln as an old man, but feels a little stale as his younger and more vigorous self. Dominic Cooper tries at being cool, and I have to blame the writing for the numerous plot holes we encounter due to his character, but unfortunately this detracts from his quality. A shining gem in all of it is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who makes a fine Mary Todd. She comes across as both strong and soft and you learn to like her quickly. The romance between Mary and Abe is a redeeming factor in the film. Special mention to Anthony Mackie who plays William Johnson who feels underused. The villains are all stock villains: easy to read and predictable, though a chase scene involving horses is pretty cool.
The theme of slavery is not approached strongly enough in the film to make it as important a plot-point as it is. It’s sort of washed over in an arrogant sort of “you know it’s bad so we won’t bother showing you” way. Whilst that is true, strictly speaking, it’s important to our main character and the vampires are the only real cause of it, and even then they blame everyone else.
The action in the film is respectable and the special effects are great. The 3D was not utilised enough to make it worth the extra couple of quid on the ticket price, being used for highlighting dust particles and embers where necessary, and it was apparently necessary for us to see dust in 3D…a lot.
Overall this film is for action buffs that don’t really care for the vampire mythos, but just like seeing heads roll. It’s an interesting concept that uses real history to explain a fantastic fiction. Unfortunately the fiction just isn’t fantastic enough to be made worthwhile, and our leads may have done better in a real biopic.