The legend of our beloved 16th President continues to grow as an axe-wielding Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) slays vampires in the Tim Burton-produced and Timur Bekmambetov-directed “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
Lincoln somberly narrates, “History prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to wild deeds. History remembers the battle, but forgets the blood. However history remembers me before I was president, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth,” which evidently was predominantly spent slaying Team Edward and company prior to the start of the Civil War.
Though not historically accurate – we’ll leave that to Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis in the upcoming “Lincoln” – the film, based off Seth Grahame-Smith’s graphic novel and who also wrote the screenplay, is surprisingly serious and very well acted. Does the concept of our nation’s most beloved president running a nation, fighting the Civil War and hunting vampires sound utterly ridiculous? It is, but the film is also wildly entertaining – assuming you understand the movie is meant to entertain and not stimulate the cabeza. If you want to try and educate yourself on Civil War-era history, switch on Netflix and catch a Ken Burns documentary – that is if you can stay awake.
Lincoln’s journey toward hunter of the undead begins when he witnesses the murder of his mother Nancy. He vowed from that moment on that he would avenge his mother’s death and kill Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) who was responsible for the murder. Lincoln’s mother did in fact die when he was 9, but of milk poisoning and not at the hands, or rather teeth, of a vampire.
Years later, intoxicated and sitting in a bar, we’re introduced to Lincoln as a young adult finding courage in a bottle to finally avenge his mother. He goes after Barts and quickly realizes he isn’t dealing with an average man. Fortunately for Honest Abe, he befriended Henry Strurgess (Dominic Cooper) hours earlier in the bar. Barts beats Lincoln silly, but Henry comes to Abe’s aide. It turns out Henry trains others to hunt vampires, and he believes Lincoln has that “it” factor for slaying vampires – his stature and axe-wielding prowess certainly help.
Lincoln moves to Springfield, Illinois, and becomes a shopkeeper by day and Henry’s vampire assassin by night. He’s supposed to live by Henry’s code, which is basically to keep to himself and not become close to anyone. However, he meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winestead), and the couple hit it off immediately. Shortly thereafter, Abe decides he could do more good in the world with his words and through politics than by wielding a silver-coated axe.
As we know from history class, Lincoln becomes president and leads the nation through its bloodiest war – keeping the union together. The film captures the brutality of the Civil War, and the war’s emotional drain on the president. Eventually, however, Lincoln is forced to pick up his old axe as the vampires align themselves with the Confederates – apparently slaves are a great source of food. Honest Abe has a eureka moment and comes across a unique approach to combating the vampire Confederates in time to turn the tide of the Battle of Gettysburg, which turns the tide of the war. The rest is history.
Some of the CGI effects are rather silly, but they weirdly add a timely bit of laughter to an otherwise serious movie. “Vampire Hunter” is thoroughly enjoyable. Albeit a bit more serious than the title would indicate, the action sequences and stellar performances by Walker and Winestead – whose onscreen chemistry is a joy to watch – make this film worth the price of admission.
3 out of 5 stars
The film is rated R for violence and brief sexuality.