Now, as preposterous as this sounds, keep in mind that the director of this film is the genius Russian-Kazakh action-film director Timur Bekmambetov -- the auteur of the incredibly entertaining “Night Watch” series and also the director of “Wanted,” starring Angelina Jolie.
Unfortunately, despite the very entertaining first 20 minutes of “Abraham Lincoln,” the film does not deliver the Bekmambetov promise of entertainment galore, so basically we are left with nothing else but the annoying knowledge of the preposterousness of its subject.
In the mid-1800s, Abraham Lincoln is just a small boy whose family works for the rich Southerners of the confederation. Even at a young age he rebels against inequality and jumps to the help of his Afro-American friends, who are bound by the ties of slavery. Sadly for Abraham, it turns out that his parents’ rich employers not only economically feed on slavery, but also literally feed on slaves since they are vampires. The metaphor for the conservative Southerners being vampires is channeled to us right from the beginning in this film, and we are urged to side with the Yankees from the get-go.
Abraham’s mother is killed by one very nasty vampire, and as such the young boy swears to seek his revenge. All grown up a young man of 20, Abraham (Benjamin Walker) stumbles upon a strange man in a bar: This is Henry (Dominic Cooper), a man who seems to be head-hunting for something. Abraham stumbles upon his mother’s killer, only to be almost killed himself, but then Henry saves him from the clutches of evil. Henry is a vampire hunter and, just like Mr. Miyage, starts teaching him how to kill these bloody vampires who are planning to take over the Americas. You see this isn’t just about Abe’s revenge now, it’s a very political matter! As we all know, these vampires can be killed by either the stake or silver, so Abe takes on a silver axe as a weapon. The only problem is that apparently these demons also have the ability to go all invisible on you, so it’s not so easy to kill them.
Abraham goes undercover in the town of Springfield, where he slays a few evil vampires, trains as a lawyer and eventually gets into politics. Vampires are only a part of the equation, you see, because Abe is on his way to saving his country from slavery and making it a better place to live for all the inhabitants. In Springfield he meets his lovely wife, Mary Todd, and as years pass he climbs the political ranks to become president and must also deal with the civil war. His extracurricular activities as vampire hunter are abandoned for a while, until he realizes that the Southern army is consorting with the vampires and he must fight the ultimate battle against the head vampire, Adam (Rufus Sewell, whose talent is wasted in this role), so he can take his country into freedom and finally win the civil war.
The film is exhibited in 3D, for reasons one cannot understand, apart from milking the cash cow of the new technology, since the visuals are poor. Splurting blood here and there really doesn’t thrill the viewer, and on top of that the CGI effects in some sequences are so unconvincing and poorly rendered that it is almost unbelievable that the CGI-familiarized Bekmambetov was behind the project.
But that is not the real problem. Although the scenes that take place in the Southern states are beautifully constructed with an alluring gothic atmosphere, the script fails to satisfy. Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, it is sprinkled with so much banal dialogue that chooses to underline the flimsy political significance of the story, where it should have chosen to not take itself so seriously, and indulge even further with the outlandishness of the plot. Come on, vampires vs. Abraham Lincoln? I’m all for subversive discourses, even when it comes to real historical characters, but really, you can’t help but roll your eyes when you watch the very humorless and matter-of-fact Abraham Lincoln suddenly being transformed into a muscle-man action hero. There’s a dichotomy here that cannot manifest itself on the big screen, even though the filmmakers try to add all sorts of complexities and intricacies.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” provides neither thought nor thrill; perhaps the “Expendables 2” might be a better choice. At least there you know that Sylvester Stallone and his posse of has-been action heroes experiencing andropause know exactly who they are and don’t lose themselves in their self-importance.
‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Joseph Mawle