Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov has a particular “style” of filmmaking, so when I heard that he was involved with a big screen adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I knew what I was in for: Fantastic visuals, slo-mo fighting, and, when he’s writing, a long and convoluted storyline. Thankfully, he didn’t adapt Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel; he let the author do it himself. And depending on your perspective, that was either a good or bad decision. (Psst: I thought it was good.)
The action/fantasy/horror film begins on April 14, 1865, which, for all of you non-history buffs, was the day that our 16th president (Benjamin Walker) was shot by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. He leaves behind his journal, which tells the “real” story of his life. Yes, Lincoln was a lawyer turned politician who married Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), worked diligently to emancipate slaves, became president, wrote eloquent speeches, and suffered the loss of his son. But, what you probably didn’t know was that he trained under the watchful eyes of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) to become a feared vampire killer. Armed with a silver axe and a list of hits, Abraham spent his nights exterminating blood suckers. Initially his goal was personal – he wanted revenge on Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), the fiend who exsanguinated his mother -but once he learned of the wider threat posed by a 5,000-year-old vampire named Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his legion of followers, he knew that this was a national problem. And he took action.
What I liked about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is that it takes historical fact and explains those events through vampire mythology. (For instance, SPOILER, the North was losing the Civil War because Adam had sent in his vampire troops. Once the North began using silver, they were able to turn the tide.) The result is a story that is inventive and clever. (It does claim that vampires can’t kill each other. They might want to talk to the Authority in True Blood about that.) Makes me want to read the novel upon which it’s based.
The acting is also applaudable. Although his role is way too small for my tastes, Sewell is delectable as Adam. (When isn’t he, though?) Even though I knew his character wouldn’t make it out alive, I was still hoping. Another fave, Csokas plays diabolical well. His Barts is a character you will love to hate. Newcomer Walker proves he has the chops to carve out a good Hollywood career as a leading man. It doesn’t hurt that he looks like the love child of Liam Neeson and Eric Bana. When I saw the trailers for this film, I wasn’t sure about Walker; wasn’t sure about his being cast. But just check him out toward the end of the film – when he’s wearing his “Abraham Lincoln” old age makeup. Wow. Impressive. I’m not a great fan of Winstead, but she conveys strength and sweetness. She and Walker have great chemistry.
This will probably turn everyone off, but while watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it reminded me of Priest. I know that I am in a selective group of people who actually enjoyed that film – I bought it on Blu-ray. That’s how much I like it. – but that’s fine by me. Priest was interesting in that it blended a lot of disparate elements together. It was a Western, kind of. It had vampires but not your traditional ones. These were more like termites. And it had some medieval religious orders fighting with throwing stars in the shape of crosses. Oh, and it had giant, kickass motorcycles; Paul Bettany, and Karl Urban. What’s not to like? Really? Abraham Lincoln will appeal to those who agree about the awesomeness of Priest. I’m sure of that. But it should also appeal to those who are looking for something different in a vampire film.
My husband’s biggest complaint about the Abraham Lincoln was that it was “slow” and the “slo-mo” got old. It’s true. It can drag a bit, in the middle. And the slo-mo might be excessive. But this is Bekmambetov, people. If you don’t know his style, you need to be informed. Watch Night Watch (2004) and/or Wanted (2008), and if you dig those, get on the Abraham Lincoln train! I’ll be purchasing my copy once it hits the stores. And as of today, it is one of my favorites of 2012. (Granted, I haven’t seen a whole hell of a lot.)
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