Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Even Timbur Bekmambetov’s visual flair translates here as run-of-the-mill visual effects excess in this adaption by Seth Grahame-Smith of his “one joke” novel. Increasingly, his direction has become more reminiscent of the crimes against cinema committed by Stephen Sommers than the crazy creativity of Nightwatch. But despite the stylisation this is a po-faced, humourless affair where the attempts at dramatic tension aren’t involving enough to take up the slack.
The cast are all reasonable, with Benjamin Walker looking slightly like a young Liam Neeson (perhaps Neeson should have played the older Lincoln here after Spielberg opted for Day-Lewis) but none of them can make silk purses out of the humdrum script. Lincoln’s best pal as a child grows up to be Anthony Mackie (that Abe; he was an abolitionist from the age of seven, you know!) while his ambitions are fueled by the need to seek revenge for his mother’s death at the teeth of a vampire.
The first half of the film sees young Lincoln trained up by Dominic Cooper and is more successful than the filling in moments of history with vampires of the later sections. There are some serious continuity issues with Abe’s beaten up face (presumably they thought we wouldn’t care enough for the film to care, and they were right) while Bekmambetov brings on the crazy in a ludicrous chase/fight sequence atop stampeding horses. Instead of being enthralling, it’s an unsatisfying special effects maelstrom, only relieved by the moment where the future president has a horse thrown at him, which he then mounts (not in a Derek and Clive sense).
Copious slow motion, speed-ramped shots and anaemic two-tone post production saturation of the colours in any given scene add to the sense that creativity had ita marching orders early on. Walker’s 50-year old Lincoln is so laden-down in prosthetics he more resembles DS9’s Odo than any accurate approximation of the man. In contrast, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Mackie are embellished with hardly a wrinkle. The climactic sequence involves a fight on a train, much of it atop, which suggests that after Wanted the director may have a bit of a fixation.
Vampire lore has various additions and subtractions that seem designed to enable the conceit of the premise. We learn that vampires are unable to kill their own kind. And they have learned how to walk in sunlight presumably only because the filmmakers wanted to show them fighting at Gettysburg.
Not bad exactly, just lacking any inspiration or wit in embracing its central idea; a novel that apparently was as obvious as its title made into a film of similar merit.