Grade: C (2/5 stars)
Who wouldn’t want to see Honest Abe take an axe to ruthless vampires? That sounds like a blast. It’s too bad that director Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”) and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, based on his own novel, couldn’t think of anything to do other than repeat the same gimmick and focus less on the silliness of the plot.
Ever since Zack Snyder released his adaptation of Frank Miller’s “300,” every action director has copied his style of filming action sequences. No, that’s not a compliment to Snyder or any other director. Slowing down a scene to enhance the action may look neat the first time, but when it’s done over and over and over again, it becomes rather boring and is a lazy move on the director’s part.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” shows the man who would be the nation’s 16th president before he became president. A vampire murdered his mother when he was just a boy, and as an adult (played by Benjamin Walker), he seeks revenge. Teaming up with Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), Abe hunts down the evil bloodsuckers that killed his mom (Rufus Sewell and Marton Csokas).
Bekmambetov and Smith twist the facts a little, and they even provide some nice humor on the history of Lincoln and his presidency. One scene toward the end has Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) shouting to Abe, “Come on. We’re going to be late for the theater.” But there’s a point where all the fun of the movie just evaporates and it never fully recovers. Lincoln becomes president and gives up on hunting vampires. He finds that leading the nation and raising a family is more important. The tone dramatically shifts from highly energetic fun to serious drama, something that a film with its unique title shouldn’t have. Sure, Abe realizes he must return to his vampire-killing routine at one point, but this stretch of the film just kills it.
Walker was a great casting choice for Lincoln, and he looks a lot like the 16th president when the makeup is applied for the years in office. But even he is marred by a lazy excuse of a B-movie, as are all the other actors. I skipped the 3D version in theaters, since the trend has become so overdone. Watching it on DVD, it was easy to see where Bekmambetov inserted all the moments to have things pop out at the audience.
Bekmambetov was able to make “Wanted” overcome its dumb, generic plot with some skilled action sequences. With “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” he seems to focus more on the visuals, which look rather dull and dim, than focus on making the action scenes not look repetitive and like every other action scene in every other movie. Paying full price to see the 3D would not make the tiresome action any better. It never does.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 23.
David also writes as the Chico Events Examiner and the National Boardwalk Empire Examiner.
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