daniel cohen sinks his teeth into the outside the box popcorn flick…
Plot: Before Abraham Lincoln’s (Benjamin Walker) political career takes shape, he secretly goes out at night as a vampire hunter in the hopes he’ll come across the vampire who murdered his mother (Robin McLeavy) when he was only a child. But as Lincoln rises to power, he realizes the vampires are a much greater threat then his own personal vendetta.
When I first read there was going to be a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I just assumed it was going to be tongue and cheek. I imagined something really zany like Lincoln cutting up vampires while Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ blasted in the background. But when I saw the trailer and realized this wasn’t a joke, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wait…they are trying to pass this off as a real movie with a real story? You got to be kidding me. It’s called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!? I’m supposed to take this seriously? But what’s even more surprising then that is that the movie is actually half-way decent. Whereas I was expecting a comedy, the drama in here is as compelling as you can possibly get for a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The reason why this film works is that the actors are really putting in a great effort from a weak as shit script. I’m not saying the acting is phenomenal or anything, but I appreciate everyone putting in a lot of energy and personality into these vastly underwritten characters. Benjamin Walker, who’s basically an unknown, is fairly charismatic as Lincoln. It’s not the most layered performance, but he’s perfectly likable, and an easy protagonist to root for. But the film surprisingly had a good array of supporting characters. Dominic Cooper is a good mentor to Lincoln as Henry Sturgess, and Lincoln’s two best friends, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) are also likable, and have great chemistry with Walker’s Lincoln. The standout for me though was Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd. We’ve seen Winstead in such films as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Sky High, and her character in this movie was the most underwritten. A lot of actresses would have been bland as hell, but she puts as much personality into the role as possible due to what was written.
But don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of bland elements to complain about. The villains were pretty bad. There are basically three main vampires we spend a lot of time with, and all of them were boring as hell. We got Marton Csokas as Jack Barts, the guy who kills Lincoln’s mother. Then there’s Erin Wasson as Vadoma, the stereotypical ‘I’m a bad ass female villain who just looks intense.’ And then the main guy, Adam, played by Rufus Sewell who looks like an evil Tony Shalhoub. These were the actors who looked at the script and said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna sleepwalk through this.’ I wish the villain actors elevated the material like the hero characters did.
What the film probably does best though is the pacing. This is a fast paced movie. It doesn’t get boggled down with long talky scenes, and I think we can all agree we don’t want a lot of dialogue in a film about the 16th President fighting vampires with an axe. Although, this can be a problem at times as the dialogue moves so fast, it becomes painfully direct. There’s a scene at a fancy ball where Lincoln dances with Mary Todd, and the dialogue is pretty much the following:
Lincoln: So, I like you a lot.
Mary: Yeah, I like you as well.
Lincoln: Great, let’s spend the rest of the movie together.
Mary: Sounds good.
They don’t try and build up any kind of development, which both hurts and helps the film. But aside from the first ten minutes which were kind of slow, and a slightly more drawn out second half, the pace is pretty swift. It just wants to get to the action.
The action is pretty solid all around. None of it is innovative or amazing, but it’s a lot of fun. I appreciated everything being filmed in the proper way, and not going tight shaky cam fiasco, which a lot of action movies tend to do now a days. And even though the visuals and effects look cheap, you get your money’s worth. There’s a particularly cool scene involving a lot of horses that was really chaotic and fun. There probably should have been more action though. For example, I don’t think Lincoln slashes with his axe nearly enough. But overall, the action you get is pretty darn good. It also had a surprisingly good score that complimented the action well. Henry Jackman did the music, and he also did X-Men: First Class, which is another score I really enjoyed, so this is certainly a composer to keep an eye on.
I can’t say this is a good movie, because there are so many dumb character moments that are just lazy, and are only there to progress the story in the direction it needs to go. When Lincoln gets more power politically, he just seems to get progressively dumber, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He comes to the realization on certain things that we as an audience figured out fifteen minutes earlier.
At the end of the day, I was pretty forgiving of this movie. Yeah, I went in here with my arms folded, ready to hate it, but the fact that I’m declaring this as an ‘okay’ film probably means it’s even better than I’m giving it credit for because it had to dig itself out of an early hole. And if you’re going to be one of those people who complain about certain historical facts getting twisted around, you need to get a hold of your life. The movie is called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Dominic Cooper’s Henry, who teaches Lincoln all of his cool moves, is even wearing Morpheus like sunglasses for crying out loud. It’s safe to say this wasn’t going to pay a lot of attention to a US History class. If you want mindless action moved a good pace, then this film is probably for you. This fictional Lincoln still isn’t as cool as the one who shouted ‘Party on, dudes’ in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure though.