Go and read the book. No really, go find the book, sit down for a few hours and read it. It might as well be a requirement for watching this film to put you in the right mind-set. Most people seem to think the film is an over the top borderline self-parody due to its subject matter and title, but to be honest with you it’s more Cowboys and Aliens than it is Van Helsing.
The plot behind the film is that the great emancipator waged a secret war against Dracula’s kin during his life. After witnessing his mother die due to one of the creatures he vows to enact vengeance upon their kind and halt their influence in America, allying himself with other forces who seek to bring them low. This does sound ridiculous but honestly the story is better than you’d expect it to be, it’s the sort of story which has a ridiculous concept but manages to tell a tale of surprising quality.
Think Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It might be a great film with interesting characters and ideas but when you sit down and explain to someone who has never seen it “anti-Alzheimer’s drugs trigger super intelligence in apes and they rebel” – they’re going to think it’s a terrible film. It’s the same problem Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has, just from the basic plot and name it looks terrible but the book is in fact very good. You’ve got to have that sort of thing in mind when going to see it rather than expecting a vampire B-movie, otherwise you’re just going to be very disappointed and possibly angry at the film. However, even taking this into account the film isn’t great it’s just okay.
The two biggest problems are that the book, while well-crafted wasn’t the best film material to stick to, and this adaptation did take a great many liberties with the plot. It’s written by the original author, but having read one and seen the other it does feel like a lot of these choices detracted from the overall quality of the film. What’s more is the addition of a single vampire to serve as a focus villain for Abe to fight might make sense, but it feels like a less noble motivation than what the novel had.
In addition to this they also got Timur Bekmambetov to direct, the guy who did the Wanted adaptation and Nightwatch. While he’s not as bad as some directors seeing this film did bring one problem to mind: All of his fight scenes somehow look the same. It’s hard to tell exactly what it is, though my money is on the Matrix style stunts and heavy editing, but no matter what he’s doing a lot of them somehow lack the individuality they should have amongst the stylistic flair. That being said these scenes are saved by some truly glorious 3D to help backup the brawls, but they likely won’t look anywhere near as good outside of it. Certainly a big problem when the film’s main attraction is the fights.
There’s really not much else to say than that. The acting is good all-around but without too much to note, the setting is as good as you’d expect for a film with this budget and if you’ve seen the trailers you already know the quality of the CGI. The only thing truly worth noting is that the makeup done in this film was extremely well done, especially as characters age with years going by, and whoever did this deserves a great deal of credit for their work.
All in all it’s just about worth seeing, it’s nowhere near as bad as some critics seem to be claiming but like Cowboys and Aliens you can’t help but feel there’s a lot of untapped potential in this film. If you’ve nothing better to see this week, try flicking through the novel; if you like what you see then go take a look at a 3D release. Just keep in mind that the “joke” behind the concept is played largely straight faced and it’s not visibly making fun of itself.
Abrham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and all related characters and media are owned by 20th Century Fox.