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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

July 4, 2012
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If I wanted to summarise the plot of this film, I’d just ask you to read the title again.

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In 1818, a young Lincoln sees his mother murdered by a vampire. After a failed confrontation, he dedicates his life to revenge and learns to become a vampire hunter, trained by his mentor Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper). He moves to Springfield, ostenibly to learn law, but in reality, to kill vampires. However, he is somewhat distracted by the ravishingly beautiful Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

After a sojourn to the southern States and witnessing vampires using their black slaves as food, Lincoln enters politics to emancipate the slaves. You can probably see where this going. Predictably, the country is engulfed in civil war, with the vampires taking the side of the confederates.

This film is dripping in style. It oozes with it in every scene. The fight scenes (of which there are many) are well-choreographed and thrilling to watch. The vampires are comfortably villainous. I’m not a fan of the angsty, effeminate vampires from Twilight and countless other ‘dark romance’ type books and television shows. Instead, they are all fangs and vicious fighters, remniscent of those from Blade et al.

However, while being aesthetically pleasing (so very, very pleasing), I couldn’t help but feel that the film lacked substance. They’ve taken a biopic about Lincoln and sprinkled some vampires on it and seem to be content with that. The emancipation of the slaves becomes Lincoln’s focus and it’s unclear whether he is fighting against vampires or the evils of slavery…no, no, wait, no, it’s still vampires. The allegory, if it’s there, feels a bit flat.

The film is saved from mediocrity by the final sequence, featuring a fight atop a train heading towards a burnt out bridge. Those are always exciting. It also tries to be just a little bit smarter for its finish.

The eponymous hero is played impressively by Benjamin Walker, backed by a genuinely solid cast. Walker does a fine job of portraying a hero of American culture, both as a young man and as the venerable 16th President of the USA. It was also good to see Mary Elizabeth Winstead who I hadn’t seen since Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (one of my favourite comic books and cult films) as Ramona Flowers.

Overall, this was a good film but I was less enthralled with it than my housemates. While its style is it at the bleeding edge of cool, its lack of any real substance lets it down in my opinion. I guess that’s a sign of me getting older. Now I want smart films with vampires getting decapitated. I think I might be terminally disappointed. In the meantime, this is still a very cool film to watch, and pretty good at the same time.

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