Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Score: 5 out of 10
Just when you thought you’ve seen the most ridiculous premise Hollywood has to offer, they throw you Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The new film is a big screen adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name, and retells the life of Abraham Lincoln as, well, a vampire hunter. The overall package is pretty much what you’d expect, with director Timur Bekmambetov and producer Tim Burton giving audiences plenty of big budget action sequences and jump scares.
As you may have guessed, the film takes great liberty with historical events and figures from Lincoln’s life, mashing them together into a fairly straightforward blood-sucking tale. The story begins with Lincoln as a boy, and sees him live a double life slaying the undead by night, and rising to become America’s greatest politician by day. Lead actor Benjamin Walker does a good job of filling the sizeable shoes and top hat of the presidential icon, with Scott Pilgrim’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his wife Mary Todd, and Captain America’s Dominic Cooper as his vampire hunting mentor. All of the actors are believable enough given the over-the-top premise, and they provide a solid emotional foundation that makes it easier to accept some of the more ridiculous aspects of the movie.
In this version of history, the southern rebellion that sparked the American Civil War was actually led by vampires, who use slaves as their primary source of food. It may seem silly to bring up historical accuracy when writing about a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but something about this really bothers me. Slavery and racism are real issues that should be handled accurately or not at all. The film is also downright dishonest about the extent of Lincoln’s commitment to emancipation, and pretends that he was in favour of total racial equality when he actually was not. Rather than deal with these important issues, or avoid them outright, the film instead lies about them for the sake of giving mostly-white audiences a safe two hours of mindless entertainment.
A good example of what I’m getting at is the character William Johnson played by The Hurt Locker’s Anthony Mackie. In real life he was a free African-American who was nothing more than Lincoln’s servant, but here he’s portrayed as a trusted advisor and friend, who basically becomes a general during the Civil War. Viewers who don’t know their history will walk away with the impression that it was possible for a black man to get this kind of respect in 19th century America. No one who leaves the theatre is going to think Abe Lincoln was actually a vampire hunter, but a lot of people are probably going to be fooled by this. Pretending that racism never happened is not a good thing.
All the historical nitpicking aside, the action and horror elements are pretty good, save for a few gimmicky moments where stupid 3D objects are hurled at the camera for no good reason, pulling you out of the movie just when you were starting to loose yourself in it. The film wasn’t actually shot in 3D, and instead used a post-production conversion. This kind of fake 3D never looks as good as the real thing, so try finding a screening in good ol’ fashioned 2D… if you really need to see it at all.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!