The boring dead
Somewhere in the development of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, somebody made the call to play it completely straight, as though Honest Abe was a serious enemy to the undead during his young adulthood and presidency, and there was nothing funny about it.
This film has no sense of humor. None. It wants to be taken seriously, but that’s simply impossible. It’s a movie about Abraham Lincoln killing vampires. It needs to be stupid and campy, and it plays like a really bad Civil War movie with the occasional bloodsucker thrown in for spice.
I suppose this would be forgivable if director Timur Bekmambetov—director of the interesting vampire flick Nightwatch and the entertaining Wanted—had assembled some decent action scenes.
The film is surprisingly lacking when it comes to the action sequences. Abraham Lincoln (played by Benjamin Walker) looks cool the first couple of times he swings away with his axe, but it gets old fast. The fight scenes are edited so quickly and sloppily it’s hard to follow any of the action.
As for the vampires, they are just cartoons. CGI can be a great thing, but its over-use here takes you right out of the film, and the battles lose any sense of tension. CGI also mars the big action scenes, like the final battle aboard a train on a fiery bridge. You feel the protagonists are more in danger of death via an invasive computer virus than a rabid vampire.
Walker makes a decent enough Lincoln as far as appearances go. He sort of has a young Liam Neeson vibe going for him. Yet, he isn’t given much to do other than look the part. Timothy Olyphant, Eric Bana and Adrien Brody were all considered for the role, and I can’t help but think any of those actors would’ve brought a little more pizzazz to the film.
Rufus Sewell and Marton Csokas play Lincoln’s main vampire adversaries, and they are dull, dull, dull. You know you are in bad shape if Rufus Sewell is playing your main bad guy. He is an actor with zero charisma.
This is a film that actually manages to make Mary Elizabeth Winstead completely uninteresting (as opposed to The Thing, where she was only mildly uninteresting). As Mary Todd Lincoln, she’s forced to stand around in period hairdo and dress. When I read that Winstead was in this, I thought for sure she would swing into action along with Lincoln. How fun would it have been if they were a husband/wife vampire killing crew? Nope, Winstead, who has action movie chops, just stands around moping because Abe tells fibs about what he does with his nights. That’s a wasted opportunity.
Doesn’t the title alone suggest campy, goofy fun? Wouldn’t you expect to laugh a few times at the sight of the iconic stovepipe hat-wearing Lincoln blasting bloodsuckers? You are more likely to yawn than even chortle.
The movie desperately needs a solid star. They should’ve paid somebody like Civil War movie vet Kevin Costner to play the head vampire, what with his Dances With Wolves pedigree. That would’ve been good weird fun. As for the tone, I was expecting something more like Evil Dead 2 than the stupid Underworld movies.
The film does suggest that the Confederacy consisted of many vampires, and the tide of the war didn’t turn until Lincoln realized he had to use silver on them. (I thought that was for werewolves.) Again, the Confederacy being a bunch of vampires could be funny, but nothing is done with the premise other than the occasional confederate soldier’s face sprouting fangs via shite special effects.
And if you are going to see this despite my warning, don’t shell out the extra for 3-D. This is some of worst 3-D since the 2010 Clash of the Titans.
How can you make a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter boring? Bekmambetov has most certainly found a way.