Can I just say before we begin here how much I love the movies? Where else can you see Hitler get shot repeatedly in the face by a vengeful Jew, JFK live out his final days as a black man in a rest home fending off an asshole sucking mummy (with Elvis as his partner in crime), and tag along with Abe Lincoln as he saves America from blood thirsty neck suckers? Only in the movies can you see such awesomely ridiculous liberties taken with American history!
So then. Is Honest Abe decapitating vampires with his trusty axe as awesome and as fun as it sounds? Yea, it kinda is. Oh and did I mention that his axe also doubles as a silver bullet spewing boomstick? Yep, I rest my case!
The best way I can sum up Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter (which is based on a book I never read) is that watching it made me feel like a kid laying on the floor reading a comic book, anxiously awaiting the big colorful action filled splash pages and half paying attention to everything before and in between. I say this because AL:VH is at its best when it's a big dumb visual feast, and at its worst when it's anything but. The action scenes, AKA the ones where Lincoln is actually killing vampers, are incredibly breath taking to behold, so wildly over the top that you kinda can't help but love them, as your eyes struggle to decide whether they should be wide with excitement and awe or do the ole 'this is super corny' roll to the back of your head. This is perhaps best personified in one particularly epic sequence, where Abe and his main fanged adversary are battling amongst a stampede of angry horses, jumping around on their backs and tossing the giant creatures around like rag dolls. Whether it's sequences like that or Abe just plain old slicing and dicing vamps slo-mo Matrix style with his axe, the action scenes are always incredibly absurd and oftentimes wildly gory, exciting to behold and quite frankly, worth the price of admission alone, even if the creativity of the action peaks a bit early on. I mean come on, what's not to love about watching a president kick some serious undead ass?!
But alas, there is a lot of downtime between action sequences, and that's when things get a little problematic with the film. It's not that I wanted all story to be tossed aside in favor of action, but the main problem I had with the film is that it never seems to know whether it wants to be a big goofy summer action flick or a historical drama that takes itself seriously, and so much of the run-time is spent shifting back and forth between the two that things get a bit messy. One minute you've got a vampire throwing a horse on top of Abe and the next you find yourself spending 10 minutes inside of what feels like a serious straight up Abe Lincoln biopic, and it's a bit jarring to watch the film waver between serious and B-movie camp. It's ironic because one of the things this fictional version of Abe references several times throughout the film is the importance of having a contingency plan, because the film itself seems to have a back up plan of its own; if the comic book style action isn't working out then it's got the serious drama to fall back on, and vice versa. I kinda wish the film had committed more fully to its B-movie premise, rather than trying to play in both playgrounds, as the whole thing could've been a bit more fun overall.
That said, I must say that by the end of the film, the mash-up of historical drama and wild action romp actually kinda worked for me. Surprise surprise. Without that serious stuff the film might as well have just been about a random dude killing vampires, so I guess it's a necessary evil to have that balance when you're mashing together two completely unrelated elements, especially when one of those elements is Abraham goddamn Lincoln. A mash up has gotta have equal parts of both worlds to be a true mash up, right? So I guess that's kinda the beauty of the whole oddball experience, rather than the negative flaw I admittedly was holding against it for much of the time that I was watching. After all, Abe Lincoln killing vampires means nothing if you don't also have moments of Abe Lincoln being Abe Lincoln. Maybe that's just me trying to justify the film's identity crisis because I had so much fun with the fun parts of it, but so be it. Regardless, things do get a bit boring at times, a result of a fairly sloppy and rushed story that's not really all that compelling, which is why I say I could've used a bit more of that absurdity.
Ultimately though, any and all flaws the film has (CG'ed vamps/generic characters) are washed away by the joys of watching our 16th president defend the free world from evil monsters, a concept so strong and unique that it's hard not to love it. Couple that with Timur Bekmambetov's remarkable talent for staging unforgettable and original action sequences and you've got yourself a pretty damn fun little roller coaster ride, a ridiculous spin on American history that's a joy to watch. It may not be quite as fun as it perhaps could've been, but overall I had a total blast with this one. Hell, if history had been told this way back in high school, I probably would've spent a whole lot more time with my head in the upright position!
I can safely say that if you go into Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter with the right mindset, expecting little more than a super fun visual feast, then you're gonna come out of the theater quite pleased. Otherwise, you probably shouldn't have been in the theater in the first place. You've gotta appreciate any movie that's so clear about its intentions that you could only come out of it disappointed if you went into it expecting something it never asked you to expect in the first place. It'd be like buying a bottle of orange juice, taking a sip and being disappointed that it wasn't apple juice. Let's be real here. The movie is called Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter. If you buy the ticket to take that ride, you probably know what kinda ride you're in store for!
By the way, holy shit does Benjamin Walker look dead on like a young Liam Neeson or what?! Couldn't stop thinking about that while I was watching the movie, and I was not at all surprised to pop on IMDb afterwards and discover that his first movie role was in Kinsey, playing a young Liam Neeson. Or that Neeson was Spielberg's original choice to play Lincoln in his upcoming biopic. While Walker pulled off playing Lincoln both young and old pretty well, I can't help but think how awesome it would've been if they had brought Neeson in to play Lincoln in the latter portions of this film. Liam Neeson kicking vampire ass as Abe Lincoln ... that totally would've put the film over the top on the awesomeness scales for me!