Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
By David Mumpower
July 2, 2012
The cardinal sin in film creation is self-indulgence. A director must possess the innate understanding that what interests them does not automatically foster the same curiosity in others. Timur Bekmambetov, a native Russian-Kazakh, is undeniably captivated by the history of the 16th American president, Abraham Lincoln. Because of this, he commits the cardinal sin of boring movie goers who expect something called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to be, you know, fun. And the one statement I make with absolute conviction is that there is not an ounce of fun to be had in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it is exactly what the title suggests. The life story of one of America’s greatest leaders is re-imagined as a chain of events triggered by one defining moment when young Abe witnesses his mother killed by a vampire. Because of this, he embarks on a training program that will enable him to find the creature of the night responsible for Mama Lincoln’s death. Vengeance drives him to a moment of truth, one that does not go as anticipated since Abe is a young adult while the vampire is an undead killing machine.
Young Lincoln needs further training to accomplish his goal: eradication of all vampires. Wait, wasn’t Lincoln the equality for all president? Anyway, following the basic Buffy the Vampire Slayer premise that every Buffy needs a Giles, Abe is tutored in monster hunting by a mysterious stranger named Henry Sturgess. As portrayed by Dominic Cooper (recently known as Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger), Sturgess is the closest the movie comes to a fully developed character…and while I enjoy Cooper as an actor, I am not saying this as a compliment to his performance here. Instead, the surprise revelations given to his character are so predictable that I found myself idly wondering if Bekmambetov has ever met a person who couldn’t figure them out.
Everyone else in the movie is much worse than mediocre and that grouping assuredly includes Benjamin Walker as Abe Lincoln. Walker, the son-in-law of Meryl Streep, has apparently learned nothing of the craft from her. I’m not even certain he has seen any of her movies. His only major role previously was in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, making him a bland choice to anchor a movie with such a colorful title. In the end, Walker’s lack of experience in carrying a film proves fatal to the proceedings. He is the least engaging would-be action hero since Gabriel Macht in The Spirit.
The worst crime of the movie, however, is committed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, an actress I ordinarily adore. The problem is not with her inasmuch as the poorly defined character she portrays. Mary Todd Lincoln is among the most famous First Ladies in the history of the United States and yet this role is given so little consideration that just thinking about her story arc angers me. When first introduced, Mary Todd is engaged to Stephen Douglas, a historically accurate footnote (more or less).