Josh Wilding Reviews: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is released in the US on Friday and in the UK today, but is it worth checking out? Does the silly premise actually work or does the movie from Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov fall totally flat? Find out here in this SPOILER-FREE review.
"Wow," is more than likely the first reaction you'll have after sitting down to watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. And no, it won't be the good kind. Instead, it will be something more akin to, "Wow, how can a movie which looked so much fun be so absolutely awful?" Regardless of the silly premise, there was no reason why the film from director Timur Bekmambetov couldn't at least be a bit of B-movie light relief. It's not. Seth Grahame-Smith's weak screenplay (he also wrote the novel the film is based on) isn't all bad, although it jumps around so often, you would be better off reading an actual history book if you're hoping to get to know Abraham Lincoln at all. While it's fair to say that no one was expecting anything near a historically accurate take on the 16th President of the United States, it could really be anyone wielding the axe in this film. All Lincoln ultimately serves as is a way of throwing in some well-known events and adding a level of novelty to the otherwise dull story.
It's all rather straightforward and there are little in the way of surprises. Admittedly, the way events are structured around the history of Lincoln do work, although most feel forced (perhaps explaining the huge time jump halfway through the movie). Visually, the film is a mess with an overabundance of slow-motion and terrible special effects. An otherwise exciting battle between Lincoln and a vampire as they avoid dozens of galloping horses wouldn't look out of place as a video game cutscene, circa 2005. Bekmambetov's style is just totally out of place in a film which would have benefited from having a director who would have grounded it in reality and made the artificial world feel at least somewhat believable. Instead, the film is brought to life in a style which will more than likely only appeal to teenage boys. The 3D effects are equally as unimpressive. Despite a handful of good, albeit gimmicky, uses of the format, it quickly becomes clear that Bekmambetov's idea of a good way to use it is to have as many floating spores and pieces of debris in as many shots as possible.
In fairness, the film is mostly saved by Benjamin Walker's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Playing him as a young and older man, he's convincing as both and delivers a solid performance throughout. Dominic Cooper is also rather enjoyable as Henry Sturgess, the man who trains Lincoln to take on the vampires, but only the blind will be unable to see the "twist" involving his character coming from a million miles away. Both Anthony Mackie (Will Johnson) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Mary Todd Lincoln) are watchable, but deserve so much better than this. Rufus Sewell's Adam makes for a believable and convincing baddie, but he's laughably one-dimensional. Throw in some forgettable supporting performances from Jimmi Simpson (Joshua Speed), Alan Tudyk (Stephen A. Douglas) and a few others and there's not much else left to say. Sadly, almost all of these characters are so poorly written and underdeveloped, not even the world's greatest actors could have salvaged much from the script.
However, it's not all bad. The design of the vampires isn't particularly original, but they are convincingly frightening and the fact they have a few extra powers (invisibility and super-speed for example) make them a little more interesting than your usual movie vamps. The make-up effects which are used to make Walker look like the older Lincoln are also top-notch, arguably up there with the jobs done on Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar and on Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. The same can't quite be said for the rest of the cast who either look unconvincing or the exact same age, only with a slightly different hair colour. For all it does wrong, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter does have its moments. While the action sequences rely far too heavily on unconvincing special effects, they are for the most part exciting and well-choreographed. The practical fight scenes also work (Lincoln's skills with an axe are great fun to watch and pretty darn impressive) but these are the only things it does do right. It's not an easy film to recommend and these few redeeming features do nothing to make-up for the fact that it is lacking in just about every other area.
Avoid it like you would a vampire and drive a stake through the heart of anyone who suggests going to see it.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter explores the secret life of our greatest President, and the untold story that shaped our nation. Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted) bring a fresh and visceral voice to the blood-thirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history’s greatest hunter of the undead.
Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln
Rufus Sewell as Adam
Jimmi Simpson as Josh Speed
Dominic Cooper as Henry Sturges
Anthony Mackie as William Johnson
Robin McLeavy as Nancy Lincoln
Alan Tudyk as Stephen A. Douglas
Marton Csokas as Jack Armstrong
Cameron M. Brown as Willie Lincoln
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
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