A revered U.S. president as a vampire hunter?
A silly premise to be sure, but it could work if done well, I thought.
Also, the film had an awesome trailer showing Liam Neeson look-alike Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln wielding a big ax to cut down a whole lot of vampires to size.
However, when I did get to see the advanced screening more than two weeks ago in New York (the trip, in the interest of disclosure, was footed by 20th Century Fox), I was disappointed.
Great effects, lots of action, good-looking stars who act well -- that's what the film had going for it.
Unfortunately, it couldn't overcome the poorly-structured storyline and -- a great sin for action movies -- a lack of a menacing villain.
Here's the plot: As a young man seeking revenge against a vampire over a family tragedy when he was a boy, Abraham Lincoln teams up with Henry Sturgess, a mysterious ladies' man played by Dominic Cooper. As he weeds out the undead in secret, he finds himself making friends, falling in love and getting into politics. In the war-torn years of his presidency, his bid to end slavery in the south is blocked by masses of soldier-vampires led by the original vampire, Adam.
It is in the first half, when Lincoln is still learning to be a vampire hunter in Springfield, Illinois, that the movie does well. It shines the most in the parts wherein shy Abe's relationship with Mary Todd, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (of "Scott Pilgrim vs the World" fame), develops.
Except for the romantic comedy part, however, the movie is pretty humourless. That could have been offset if the film had also been more suspenseful. But the great Lincoln seemed to have been as good a vampire hunter as he was a politician. He cut down opponents with such ease that you were never too frightened for him.
His nemesis, Adam, was portrayed as a leader, politician and pragmatist by Rufus Sewell, At first, Adam hopes that Lincoln will become a formidable ally, instead of a deadly foe. However, as a genteel southern plantation owner, the vampire chief doesn't come off as much of a threat to the young Lincoln. When I asked him about it, Sewell did acknowledge that it was "a concern".
Ultimately, the problem lies in the film's script. Based on Seth Grahame-Smith's best-selling book, also titled "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", the film tries to meld action, fantasy, history and socio-political elements but doesn't do too good a job in any one area.
Smith, who also penned Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" film, is probably better off as a novelist than a scriptwriter. Having broken out with his first genre mash-up book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", he admits he prefers writing novels than scripts because he has more control. In fact, Adam and Lincoln's friend, Will Johnson, were not characters found in the book but were added in specifically for the fantasy-action film on the suggestions of other people involved in the production.
Visually, the movie is great. It's one of those films that does look good in 3D. The action scenes are also beautifully done, and you get great long sequences of them.
Ultimately, I'd give this film a five out of 10.
If you want to while away some time, see more of vampires that people can't seem to get enough of these days, marvel at movie effects and a la Matrix fight sequences, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not a bad option.
For those who want much more than that, you'll have to keep on hunting.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will be showing in cinemas in Singapore from Thursday, 5 July.