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ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is going to be a tough sell
for the average viewer; the title alone is going to be a deterrent for many.
Ultimately, this is a love-it-or-loathe-it type of adventure, and judging by
the reaction at the Toronto press screening, those sentiments seem to be split
down the middle. If you can commit to the absurdity of the idea, you’ll be in
for one hell of a rip-roaring adventure that will not disappoint; if you can’t
stomach the premise and let go of the obvious historical incongruity involving
one of America’s most beloved historical figures, you may end up rejecting it.
LINCOLN is, at its core, a tale of one man’s tormented past,
one which fuels and inspires his future as a revolutionary. As a youth, Lincoln
discovers that there is a darkness lurking amongst the shadows of
America–vampires—when he witnesses the murder of his mother by a nasty
bloodsucker. This sets in motion Abe’s lust for revenge against the vampire
race and his mother’s destroyer, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas).
Jump ahead several years, and the older Abraham, brilliantly
played by relative film newcomer and stage actor Benjamin Walker, bumps into
his soon-to-be mentor Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE
FIRST AVENGER). Henry immediately sizes up Abraham when he sees how
underprepared and unskilled the revenge-driven future president is in handling
a confrontation with the undead. Abraham’s encounter provides the basis for his
unconventional and blossoming friendship with Henry, who becomes Abe’s trainer
and advisor on the dispatching of vampires. While ax-deep into ghoul killing,
Lincoln uncovers some gruesome truths: He learns that Adam, the first vampire
(Rufus Sewell), is importing slaves and harvesting them as food. This knowledge
becomes a driving force in Lincoln’s professional development, as he starts to
pursue a career as a lawyer that evolves into a life in politics. We get to see
the man’s story unfold in the manner that history recorded—all while combating
the vampire menace. The entire mad enterprise culminates on the plains of
Gettysburg and on a train full of munitions, leading to a finale that is among
the most explosive, jaw-dropping climaxes this critic has ever seen.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is equal parts fact and
fictional extrapolation of the story we all know so well, and the invented
elements in Seth Grahame-Smith’s script (based on his best-selling novel)
easily slip into the gaps of history. Perhaps we never really knew what
motivated Lincoln to create the Emancipation Proclamation; freeing the living
from the undead seems like a pretty good collateral reason! There is so much to
love here: the acting is solid, often campy but always played straight. Humor
is sporadically injected throughout, and it easily lightens the tension. The
tension is expertly handled by director Timur Bekmambetov, who respects the
vampire mythos. The 3D is brilliantly executed, the visual effects are
mind-blowing, the fight choreography is poetic, the scare factor even works and
the vampires are properly menacing.
Which is not to say that ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is
a perfect film; some of the dialogue is contrived, and there’s a ridiculous
stampede sequence in which Abe and Barts face off again—seriously, suspension
of disbelief can only go so far. There are also a few elements that lack
closure or plot resolution; maybe this is a case of missing scenes that may
reappear in a director’s cut on Blu-ray. But for the most part, these are minor
complaints, and nothing that really impacts the enjoyment of this wild
cinematic ride, a perfectly original entry in a summer filled with seemingly
unlimited sequels and remakes.
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