In a world shrouded with remakes, reboots and pre-makes, it’s incredibly rare when a studio gets behind something wholly original. Twentieth Century Fox, who has been working diligently at getting back into the good graces of movie fans, made a bold move in adapting Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter into a major motion picture. Unfortunately, it’s not a product that’s going to inspire other studios to jump on the bandwagon. This new trend of “historical retellings” could already be dead…
Day Watch and Wanted’s Timur Bekmambetov gets behind the camera for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a should-be action-packed epic that becomes muddled with a lengthy timeline and weak character development. The story follows Lincoln, played by Benjamin Walker, as he grows up to become the 16th President of the United States. Along the way he witnesses a vampire murdering his mother and exacts revenge with the help of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a Robert Downey Jr.-esque vamp slayer.
The main problem with the film is twofold, beginning with the tone of both the script and Honest Abe. First, the pic is missing a slightly comedic edge. Grahame-Smith’s screenplay takes itself way too serious, which is odd considering the “Scooby-Doo”-like plot/reveals. The audience is watching Walker caked in weak Abraham Lincoln make-up (that makes him look like a young Liam Neeson) fighting CGI-laden vampires on a blazing train, and they’re supposed to take it seriously? Come on now. But this issue wouldn’t be as glaring if Grahame-Smith had actually done research on the real Abraham Lincoln, a man who was beloved by his Illinois companions, who filled bars with jokes and conversation. In Vampire Hunter, Abe is told he must be a loner with no friends, family or loved ones. Thus, he’s portrayed as a boring recluse with zero personality, a complete 180 from historical facts. The movie strips him of personality and turns him into a revenge-obsessed junkie. It’s an amusing oversight as it literally destroys the fun of the movie and turns it into an overbearing bitch-fest filled with cool FX and fight scenes.
Grahame-Smith’s script gets even worse when it turns into the “Seinfeld” episode “The Yadda Yadda”. The first half establishes Lincoln’s character and early years before trailblazing over most of the Civil War to get to the climax. The second to third act transition completely loses the viewer and it’s muddled with exposition attempting to bridge act 1 and 3. In short, the middle of the movie is extremely boring. It’s as if he starts to explain what happens and then goes, “So the Civil War begins and yadda yadda, Abraham Lincoln is President now.”
And while the character development and screenplay are a complete mess, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, at times, is an incredibly interesting movie. The flick features some brilliant CGI work, incredible choreography, and even the vampires look dope. The fight scenes, while far and few between, are edge-of-your-seat exciting; the vampires are fierce, vicious and look terrifying (even though it’s all CG); and the finale is absolutely mind-blowing. If there were one reason to see this in fake, post-converted 3-D, it would be to see the epic battle sequel on the flaming train (as teased in the trailers and posters).
(Speaking of the 3-D, the cinematography was either garbage or Bekmambetov decided to turn up the contrast so the 3-D wouldn’t look so dark (a regular complaint along viewers). The entire film was blown out, so much so that I had to ask a Fox rep if we were watching the finished film (we were). Saying it looked terrible is an understatement.)
In the end, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is kind of fun, but wholly forgettable. It’s the kind of movie you see just to get out of the brutal summer heat by enjoying the theater’s cool air conditioning. By the time you leave the cinema you’ll be more concerned with finding the next air-conditioned establishment than talking about what you just saw. In fact, when your parents ask you what you did today, odds are you won’t even remember that you saw it.