Even after seeing trailers and advertisements for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter over the last few months, it’s hard for me to believe that this movie was actually made. It’s not because the film is an utter failure, but simply because I’m surprised that Fox agreed to greenlight this outrageous concept and release it as an R-rated film.
Those that go into this movie with the right expectations will find it to be campy fun, but pacing problems and a lack of character development prevent Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter from being a great film.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel of the same name and chronicles Lincoln’s life as a vampire hunter. The entire movie is riding on Benjamin Walker, who gives a charismatic performance as the vampire-hunting president. He’s convincing as this iconic figure at both a young and old age, and as ridiculous as the concept is, it almost seems natural after a while to watch Abraham Lincoln slay vampires with an axe. While not always flawless, the prosthetic work on 30 year old Benjamin Walker is very well done to the point where it isn’t distracting and he is believable as President Lincoln. Regardless of this movie’s performance at the box office, Walker’s role in this film will get him noticed.
Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, and Jimmi Simpson make up the main cast. They are all capable actors, but character development is one of the main reasons why this movie doesn’t work. Because the script is worried about giving us an overview of Lincoln’s life, we only get a snapshot of his relationships. They may tell you that a certain character is Lincoln’s friend or enemy, but there isn’t enough interaction to sell these characters in their roles. The only exception here is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who had a great on-screen chemistry with Walker. Their scenes help ground the film, and give it some emotional depth, as well as humor.
Not only does the problems with pacing hurt character development, but the general flow of the movie. There are instances where the movie will go from an intense action scene to a slow crawl, making for an uneven experience. It feels like the director and writer were juggling between big action, emotional impact, and weaving in actual history. However, when the audience already knows the outcome of the civil war and the character development isn’t enough for you to care about many of the characters, you’re just left waiting for the next bit of action.
Many of the fight scenes are well choreographed and it’s fun to watch Lincoln go up against multiple vampire foes. However, given the R-rating and the fact Timur Bekmambetov also directed Wanted, I was expecting a more extreme action/horror film. Like another Fox movie Prometheus, it felt like the filmmakers held back and were instructed to make this movie for a possible PG-13 cut.
I give the filmmakers credit because this mash-up does work on a number of levels and the fact that they were able to give this an R-rated treatment is rare. There is no doubt that I was entertained by this film, but I have a hard time giving this a solid recommendation. For anyone who has reservations about the film, there’s nothing that will wow you if the trailers haven’t already sold you. If the title alone is enough to get you excited, expect to be entertained, but wishing that you got to see more of what the title promised… Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires.