Seth Grahame-Smith has been a very busy man over the past month or so. First he scripted Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, a film that was so scattershot and all over the place it was almost as if it didn’t want people to like it. Now he’s adapted his own mash-up novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for the screen, a project that the aforementioned Burton has wanted to get off the ground for a while.
The story essentially is about the life of Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker), and how whilst serving as the 16th President of the United States, he’s approached by a mysterious British man called Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who tells him that vampires are planning on taking over his country. Lincoln then makes it his life mission to kill them all with axes, makeshift guns, and backflips.
The novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a big success, and rightly so. Its tongue-in-cheek humour and general craziness made it a thrilling read, almost reminiscent of the old pulp fiction stories. The main problem with the film is that it decides to ditch the humour in favour of making something altogether more serious. It could just be that Smith didn’t want to risk the film’s big budget on something that could easily backfire so decided to go mainstream, in which case it would be a massive misjudgement. With the tongue-in-cheek humour it becomes something more fresh and vibrant; and it would live up to its rather tantalising title.
The CGI action would have been more bearable too. While the fight scenes are very entertaining, with some humour they would have been more effective. Without it, the CGI just looks plain barmy, Abraham Lincoln running up walls and defying gravity on the roof of a train as though a crowd of potential voters are watching. The majority of these scenes are too dark and rather dreary, making it a rather bland visual experience.
That’s not something you expect from a director like Timur Bekmambetov, the man who famously brought us the breathtakingly crazy Wanted. He’s very good at directing action scenes, that much we knew, but he seems unable to create any tension with them. Given that Tim Burton was originally going to direct, you can’t help but think it would have been better in his hands. Personally I would have liked to have seen this helmed by Quentin Tarantino. At least he has a sense of humour.
Benjamin Walker and Rufus Sewell are really the only people to come out of this without being disappointing. Walker makes for a great lead, with his charisma and quite physical presence. He is a leading man of the future if he plays his cards right. Rufus Sewell does good as the lead vampire Adam, coming across with a genuine air of menace without seeming like a villain from a cartoon. Overall, it doesn’t meet its expectations, but you will be mindful that it could have been a whole lot worse than it is.
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