To quote Honest Abe’s quasi-sensei Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) in Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, “Real power comes not from hatred, but from truth.” And there is a truth I have to tell, my friends.
To sum up, I think I’d first recommend dropping 15 bucks plus popcorn on Twilight if you’ve got a hankering for some bloodsucking action before I’d advocate for seeing AL:VH. I know the 3D glasses and the free A/C in this heat wave are tempting, but friends, don’t fall prey to the trap.
In this adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel of the same name, director Timur Bekmambetov and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith make the hilariously fatal mistake of taking themselves far too seriously. The film’s historical tie-ins seem ludicrously garish, but unintentionally so, rendering their execution even more painful to watch.
In a moment written to be deeply philosophical, Abe (Benjamin Walker) is arguing at knifepoint with head vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell) over the morality of slavery, an argument Adam deflects with a sharp-toothed grin and one-hundred-percent-serious sweeping metaphor, “We are all slaves to something.” By this point, the film’s heavier moments such as this one, reaching for star-spangled poignancy and Higher Morality, have only managed to elicit a derisive chuckle from the audience at best.
In fact, much of the film left one wondering whether it was, in fact, supposed to be funny. Ridiculousness compounded by a hopelessly stale performance from lead Benjamin Walker, an axe-wielding Abe waltzes onscreen as gaudy as the butt of a joke, with a story about seeking vengeance for the murder of his mother by vampires (not to mention a set of fake ears larger than the Union he’s trying to save). As he (inexplicably) gains almost superhuman strength and reflexes, he goes after various vampire targets in town on the orders of mentor Sturgess, finding time to study law, fight slavery and court a town girl named Mary Todd (guffaw) in between missions. The result of this awkward balancing act between over-the-top action sequences and tepid plotline causes the film to develop like a lukewarm superhero story, inelegant in transition and heavy-handed in cliché.
However, all its obvious flaws aside, how much can we really expect from a movie called Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Do we dare hope for riveting plotline or intricate character development? Historical accuracy or grandly woven metaphor? Hell no. We go to see movies like Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because we want to see some monsters get dealt with. Which brings us to Abe’s one saving grace: some seriously stylish cinematography and art direction. The camera angles took excellent advantage of the 3D the theater afforded them, plunging viewers straight into the film’s revised version of history with blood-curdling cool.
But that and a small chuckle, really, is all we can ever hope to get from a movie about an American President who hunts vampires by night. The mere sentence is downright campy—it’s only a shame that the filmmakers lacked the self-awareness to realize that in the first place.