Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Release Date: June 22nd, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Timur Bekmambetov Actors: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Robin McLeavy, Erin Wasson
rom the concept of a former president’s double life as a monster slayer to the outrageously unhinged action sequences, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” will test your suspension of disbelief. Films of this nature are often hard to digest in the first place, but a more careful attention to creating a coherent narrative and a greater focus on explanation over theatrics would have better prepared the mind for the outlandish situations presented. Few rules are set for the abilities of our hero, even fewer for the foes, motives are blurry at best, and gravity (of any kind) rarely makes an appearance. There’s a reason you’ve never seen two people fighting atop a stampede of wild horses – it’s just not believable no matter how substantial the special effects.
When ruthless businessman Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) murders his mother (with a conspicuous bite that causes a sickness for which there is no febrifuge), Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) becomes obsessed with revenge. But on the night he finally musters the courage to kill Barts, he discovers his nemesis is actually an immortal vampire. With the aid of the mysterious vampire hunter Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Lincoln learns how to destroy the undead and becomes a skilled killer. Hiding his demonic exploits from his love, Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Lincoln begins a career in law and politics. His successes in both his public and private endeavors brings the unwelcome attention of the deadly vampire leader Adam (Rufus Sewell), causing a war to ignite that will determine the very fate of mankind.
The extent of the ridiculousness in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” cannot easily be compared or understood. It’s not dissimilar to director Bekmambetov’s other wildly eccentric projects, although it is drastically less polished. He makes interesting choices with adaptations, but is starting to reveal himself to be limited to the creativeness of the source material and the level of over-stylized special effects he can fuse into the blueprint. As his selections become further and further disconnected from believability, the errors and ludicrousness are much more apparent. It’s bad enough that history is being grossly (not cleverly) distorted; with the exaggerated fight sequences, physics-defying stunts (an occasional few of which aren’t entirely disappointing), unconvincing CG medley, and superhuman abilities of a character defined as ordinary, this hopelessly silly premise repeatedly approaches insulting.
“Vampires are real, Mr. Lincoln,” matter-of-factly states Henry. This line occurs early on, with an abruptness and a bluntness that establishes the general degree of hasty introductions for every character and setting. There’s never time to absorb the elements of the supernatural, the twist on the historical legend, or the shocking physical strength and ninja-like agility of Lincoln (which never subsides, especially noticeable when he turns 50). Even the unique aspects of the bloodsuckers, including invisibility, acclimation to sunlight, and the invulnerability of vampires to other vampires, present themselves out of thin air and without explanation. Abraham is taken as a pupil instantly, a training montage materializes swiftly, and genuine danger seems remote. If it isn’t peculiar enough hearing factual names, famous battle locations, and civil rights milestones mentioned in context with slaying monsters, or the use of recognizable comedy character actors (Alan Tudyk, Jimmi Simpson), or hilariously violent and intentionally gratuitous death scenes, the 20+ year gap in vengeance (the villains just ignore the hero for decades) and acrobatic duel atop charging stallions might do the trick.
– The Massie Twins