|Benjamin Walker as Lincoln|
I loved Seth Grahame-Smith's novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter when I read it last year while on vacation in Florida (the only time I get to do any real reading, it seems). I found it smart, funny and very clever, so I was excited to learn that Tim Burton was producing the movie version.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) with a script by Grahame-Smith, the film version is surprisingly different from the novel, but no less enjoyable. It goes without saying that the whole premise is absurd: as a young boy, Lincoln witnesses the death of his mother at the fangs of his father's former employer and vows to get revenge. After the death of his father, Abe (Benjamin Walker) sets out to just that, but encounters a mysterious stranger named Henry (Dominic Cooper) who takes him under his wing, teaches him to fight and gives him a silver-plated axe/rifle with which to destroy vampires. The vampires, led by Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his sister Vadoma (Erin Wasson) are importing slaves for use as food in a plot to make America a vampire nation, thus setting into motion Lincoln's determination to end slavery.
Loaded with lots of flying blood and some excellent action sequences, AL:VH is a terrific-looking movie, shot in gorgeous tones of sepia that help set both the mood and the period. The performances are fine and Walker (best known for his performance in the Broadway musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) plays Lincoln with just the right amount of gravitas, though Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger) seems to be having the most fun. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) as Mary Todd Lincoln and Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau) as Abe's childhood friend round out the cast but hardly stand out. And it was good to see vampires portrayed as real monsters, rather than sparkly, angst-ridden teenagers.
Unfortunately, the movie's biggest problem is its often terrible special effects. The CGI horses in an otherwise exciting stampede sequence look nothing at all like real horses and the truly atrocious age makeup in the film's latter third is so distracting it took me right out of the movie. My companions (D, Chino and Nikki) all enjoyed it well enough, though they all agreed that the makeup was amateurish, at best. We saw the 2D version, which didn't suffer from the lack of a third dimension at all. **1/2 (Two and a Half out of Four Stars).