The title sums up this film pretty well. It starts with a young Abraham Lincoln defending his young black friend from being whipped by a sinister wealthy plantation owner. Abraham’s parents are fired from their employment and have to repay their debt, which the land owner takes in blood. Abraham witnesses this land owner feeding on her, and discovers the truth; that all the slavery horrors were commited by vampires and the white-folk were innocent of such crimes. I am of course, joking. The realisation is that Vampires are real and evil. Slavery remains a stain of blood on the hands of many cultures and lands (to paraphrase Ben Elton, uh-oh bit of politics).
Once Abraham Lincoln has witnessed this, he sets about getting his revenge. He confronts the Vampire who killed his mum, in a scene which contains some jumps (the audience I was with jumped at least twice during this scene) and introduces Dominic Cooper’s mysterious Englishman Henry Sturgess (Abe’s version of Whistler from the Blade series). From there on in, Dominic Cooper has found a weapon in Honest Abe, and he trains him to kill the Vampires, and sets him on various missions. We see the vampire lore has changed again for this film. Silver is deadly, but sunlight isn’t a problem (fortunately though, these Vamps don’t sparkle in sunlight or waste time going to High School when they’re well into their 200s).
The film’s first half flies through the set-up and the training. Not a second is wasted. It is efficient and fun. The 3D works exceptionally well, with the depth looking incredible. The CGI is hit and miss. It can make a Vampire face look creepy, dead, and a snarling mass of teeth one minute, and a CGI mess the next, with a Vampire looking as bad as something from the I Am Legend film.
The CGI also falls flat during an action sequence which takes place during a horse stampead, which look terrible. The steam train sequence towards the end goes from looking good, to looking bad, depending which part it’s at. However, the training and assignments are a lot more fun than some origin stories.
The slower second half sees Abraham Lincoln as an older man, in office as the President. It is during the civil war, except here the opponents are the Vampires. The battle scenes are all well realised, and interesting to watch. It is also interesting to see the president wrestling with the horrors of sending men to die in their thousands over his cause, which is well portrayed by Benjamin Walker in the title role. The story also stays close to the life of Abraham Lincoln, taking major points in his life and putting a Vampire spin on them. (I can’t imagine them writing something like this for one of our Prime Ministers, although John Major: Vampire Hunter sounds hilarious and conjures up and image of the grey Spitting Image doll of him slapping people in the face with a bit of wood).
Abraham Lincoln looks like a young Liam Neeson, and reminds you more of Qui Gon Jin when he sports Abe’s signature beard. The actor is a lot of fun to watch though, and has you rooting for him, as a warm and genuine character. Marton Csokas is his usual hammy self, though for a film with as ludicrous a sounding title as this, is not out of place. This is a fun movie, and over hammy acting on occasion, can be fun in the right circumstances. The rest of the perfomances are all good. Alan Tudyk still manages to be fun in his minor role as Mary Todd Lincoln’s former fiance. Rufus Sewell appears a charismatic villain too, all charm and social graces as he mercilously slaughters ‘the help’ at his Plantation. (Maybe the sequel will be Harriet Tubman: Vampire Hunter, and involve the Underground Railroad evading Vampire attacks).
Overall, this is a very fun ride. Reviews in some of the UK’s top film magazines have only rated this 2 out of 5 stars, but for sheer entertainment and fun, I would give it 3. They have sited the fact that the film appears so serious, to be one of the reasons why it doesn’t work, but for me, this film feels like I’m watching a motion comic book. The film’s framing, the use of slow-mo when a Vampire’s brains are shot out, and just the whole look and tint of the film, feels like a comic book, and for me it succeeds in being an entertaining and fun film. It isn’t a perfect film, but then you can’t expect a film worthy of Oscar recognition when the title is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This is, however, a very fun popcorn film.