Friday, 13 July 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Apparently, Vampires have blood too

And, with a title like that, who needs a synopsis? 

At face value, one wonders whether or not the historical setting of this film is kind of arbitrary - intended merely to provide a fresh background and setting to what can only be described as pure carnage. 

Well, in actual fact, this story doesn’t do a bad job of merging history with horror and fiction. As paper thin as proceedings might seem in the first fifteen minutes or so, as things progress we see a more considered connection between the fiction and the historic events in Lincoln’s life. The theme of freedom from slavery is strongly present, and Lincoln is indeed portrayed as the hard-working and honest leader who dedicated his life to ensure that all people, who are all created equal, enjoy equal freedom from oppression.
But let’s not kid ourselves. This is still a movie about a guy who kills vampires.

The movie sets out to tell us a story about Lincoln’s dark side... which I can only assume was lost in translation somewhere down the line of recorded history! Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker), as a young boy, witnesses the death of his mother at the hands of slavedriver Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). It is not until some years later he discovers the shocking secret of this cold, sinister individual - he’s an actual vampire! Conveniently, Lincoln is saved by someone who knows all about vampires and how to kill them - that’s right, it’s the guy from Mamma Mia (Dominic Cooper)! For some reason which is not immediately specified, he offers to train Abe up in the art of efficiently slaughtering these undead pests on the condition that he only goes after the marks he specifies. Motivated by pure hatred and the opportunity to one day exact revenge upon his mother’s killer, which his new boss specifically warns against, Abe accepts. 
Now, if it seemed like I dumbed that first part of the story down somewhat - you’d be wrong. That really is all there is to it before we get to the violent bits - that’s what we came to see, isn’t it? 
As for the action and gore, there’s plenty of it. Abe swiftly becomes adept at swinging his axe around and killing things. The movie certainly does it’s damndest to try and show you action like you’ve never seen before, and you will find yourself treated to a few rather imaginative fight and action scenes - especially if, like me, you’re into those which are borderline ridiculous. There’s a bit where the guy Abe’s fighting picks up a horse by the leg and swings it around, using it as a weapon. It is as comical as it sounds, but thankfully it never gets quite stupid enough to spoil the dark tone that they were clearly going for.

But thankfully, this film doesn’t overdo it on either the plot or the action front. Of course, this is much more of a horror/action affair than anything else, but you get decent doses of plot as well - you get a break from the action here, you get a break from plot there. The pacing is actually not bad at all. The biggest breather comes when Abey hangs up his axe to become President and lead his country to freedom with his mighty words, resolving to fight instead with strong words, morals and leadership. But don’t worry, he eventually picks his axe up again when he realises he can’t actually fight hordes of vampires with these things.
As you might expect, the characters in this movie seem pretty shallow. Not that this is necessarily a shortcoming or error on the writer’s part, it’s just a question of where they decided to put the emphasis. There are certain plot-heavy moments which should be pivotal for the characters involved, but this movie places so little emphasis on their reactions and emotions it’s almost abundantly clear that it doesn’t wish to beat you over the head with superficial “character-development” just for the sake of it, as if it knows that you didn’t come here to see any of that stuff.
Once again, the movie is called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That title pretty much tells you everything you need to know. It just falls short of being totally one-dimensional - which is absolutely fine if you love that kind of thing. You’ll enjoy it, but... just don’t expect too much else besides the obvious.
In Summary:

+ Nice balance between action and plot
+ Impressive action scenes with nice use of CGI
+ Interesting portrayal of Lincoln - dark and brooding on one hand, but also the virtuous leader history recalls
- Other characters are mostly uninteresting and underdeveloped
- Some scenes with especially badly written dialogue
- You may feel at times like it’s “trying too hard” to impress you

My Rating: 5/10

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