Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Addressing both sides of the argument, author Seth Grahame-Smith's particular historical/pop culture mash-ups, which started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, acts as a shining beacon of our times. Whether by denigrating historical texts and American forefathers or by rejuvenating significant narratives for a generation keen on flash-in-the-pan aesthetics and narrative sensationalism, the implicit absurdity represents more than meets the eye.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the blockbuster adaptation of Grahame-Smith's sophomore novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which takes itself dreadfully seriously while injecting a vampire mythology into the life of the 16th president of the United States. A noted abolitionist, his battle here is with that of the stylized vampires devouring human beings without limit, an unintentional, laughable metaphor for slavery itself.
Lincoln's (Benjamin Walker) awareness of the bloodsuckers comes about when one of them kills his mother, leading him to take up vampire hunting with a stoic mentor (Dominic Cooper). Cue slow motion montage sequences and twirling, shining axes, only without the self-conscious humour of something like Buffy. Inevitably, Lincoln shrugs off his mentor's warnings and takes matters into his own hands.
As told by Daywatch director Timur Bekmambetov, the quotidian formalities of Lincoln's real life prove far less appealing than his occasional dalliances with incoherent, slow-mo ass-kicking in an aesthetic hybrid of Michael Bay and Zach Snyder. And while his indifferent Euro-trash sensibilities work in a tacky, bleached-out capacity via the implicit camp value, the overall seriousness of the entire endeavour makes it laughable.
Despite glossing over large chunks of Lincoln's life, author/screenwriter Grahame-Smith fancies the material legitimate and the vampire modifications profound. The history presented is essentially accurate, just as the performances (while uneven) reach for respectable biopic prestige. But when you mix in overly stylized, yet weirdly lethargic set pieces involving a runaway munitions train and a horse stampede, it's hard not to raise an eyebrow at the inherent childishness of the endeavour.
Still, there's something intriguing about the unashamed indulgence of it all, much like how the actual viewing experience compels out of sheer peculiarity. Had Vampire Hunter cooled the superhero vibe and focused on historical blending or contrarily embraced the sheer insanity of it all, it might have maintained some dignity.
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