Abraham Lincoln was an honest man and I plan to continue that honest tradition by telling you that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a fun movie that is all it ever needed to be.
When he was a child, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnessed the murder of a family member at the hands of a vampire. Like it did with Batman, this murder sets Abe on a quest to seek justice — in this case against vampires. As with all vigilante movies, the first time Abe faces off with a vampire he gets kicked into next Tuesday. A patron of the bar he was in just before the fight steps in and saves him from death. Abe wakes up the next day in this person’s house and his protector is introduced to him as Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a fellow who, like Abe, lost everything when a vampire killed his girlfriend in front of him.
Abe asks to be trained by Henry and the two form an unlikely friendship with Abe taking out evil vampires with an ax, one bloodsucker at a time. Abe, like Bruce Wayne, also has to manage a love life with Mary Todd, who is also being pursued by Jefferson Davis.
After killing many vampires, Abe decides that he wants to practice law, which eventually leads to him entering politics and becoming president. When a vampire kills Abe’s only son and also uses vampires to help the South win the Civil War, Abe decides “four score” is too long to wait, and decides that the vampires’ leader, Adam, (Rufus Sewell) must be stopped.
I was prepared to hate this movie. I assumed that the visual effects would be there solely as an attempt to mask the fact that this film has no story. I was wrong. This film has a strong cast of actors doing a good job at representing historical and literary characters, and that serves to basically take this movie from average to good. That being said, Benjamin Walker does not come into his own until Abe Lincoln reaches his presidency.
Mary Todd is played with exceptional grace by Mary-Elizabeth Winstead. She is the unsung hero of this film because she has to put up with her husband hiding the fact that he hunts vampires for almost the entire film.
My main problem with this film is that we didn’t get enough time with Abraham Lincoln as a child. We literally see two moments of aggression from him as a child and we are supposed to assume that those two moments propelled him into the profession of vampire hunting. I wanted to see him be sad because he can’t get advice from his mother or skip out on school and be a loner because he had no maternal guidance. Either of those would have given me the slight level of depth that I wanted the film to have.
My other problem with the film is that I didn’t believe Adam’s motivation for being a villian. Adam wanted vampires to have the same equal treatment as humans. I think that ties in well with the Emancipation Proclamation, but I would have rather seen Adam with an “I’m evil just because I can be” attitude. In the film, Adam has no reason to hate Abe other than the fact that Abe gets in the way of his plans. He has no reason to be evil. He doesn’t hate people.
The film was directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who also directed Wanted with James McAvoy. The screenplay was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of the novel on which the film is based. The director’s visual flare is evident, but it does not distract Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter from being a good film about a great president.