Randy's Review: 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'
Walk tall and carry a big ax
Okay quit giggling.
Perhaps the greatest revisionist story in American history, the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's popular novel depicting the secret, nocturnal life of Abraham Lincoln, who attempts to avenge his mother's death at the hands of a vampire, strays great distances from the book.
An absurd idea perhaps, but the book, which tells the tale of Lincoln's exploits through historical private journal entries turned over to a journalist, was a fun and believable read. It ties in Lincoln's upbringing, his years as a store clerk, aspiring attorney and political figure who, as president, leads the North to victory in the Civil War before losing his life at the hands of an assassin in a theater.
Added into the true history of Lincoln and America is the notion that somehow vampires played a role in all of it, and as Lincoln grows in success, age and wisdom, he continues to try and rid the country of their threat.
In the film version, for which Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay, the movie strays away from telling the story through Lincoln's journal entries. Large sections of his childhood - which plays a big role in his overall development - are omitted from the film.
After watching his mother grow ill and eventually die, following a bite from a vengeful vampire and plantation owner named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) promises to kill his mother's attacker.
Along the way he meets the mysterious Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), another obsessed with putting a stop to the growing vampire movement in the states. Sturgess enlists Lincoln's help in ridding the country of the undead, and trains young Lincoln to become a vampire hunter.
Wielding a silver-tipped, Buffy doesn't have anything on "Honest Abe" axe, and aided by Matrix-like special effects, Lincoln becomes more than human, dodging leaping blood suckers, maneuvering away from tearing claws and gnashing teeth, slicing his way through a host of vampires living among the people of the early 1800s.
Along the way he rises in stature, meets and marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and is joined in his pursuit of the undead by Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and childhood friend, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie).
His vampire killing spree draws the attention of Adam (Rufus Sewell), a centuries-old head of the vampires, living as a Southern plantation owner, involved in the shipment of slaves for food for his kind. He is supported by politicians and movers and shakers in the South, putting him at odds with Lincoln.
The movie becomes about Lincoln and Adam battling for the future of America - a future which the Civil War will define. When Adam unleashes his vampire hordes to aid the South in the fight, Lincoln has to find a way for the North to overcome the forces as they move toward Washington D.C.
Fans of the book will recognize pieces of it in the movie, but the film version is greatly different than the structure of the novel.
The movie is fun, although at times Lincoln's fighting style is way too much. Looking like Keanu Reeve's Neo character from the Matrix movies, Lincoln is dodging attacks, jumping up walls and jumping from horse-to-horse in pursuit of Bart during a stampede. I can buy Lincoln wielding a mighty ax, splitting trees with one mighty swing and taking out monsters, but I don't recall anything about him having super powers.
You might forget you're watching Lincoln and think you're enjoying an Indiana Jones sequel as you watch a climactic battle on board a train crossing a fiery, collapsing bridge.
If you can suspend your belief enough, you might have a good time with it; but regardless, I definitely suggest reading the book.