June 26, 2012 -- I'll admit that I couldn't resist a movie with a ridiculous name like this. It is based on a book of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, the same guy who wrote “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” The first half of the movie is O.K. because it is a kind of personal story, gothic horror and romance. Then it collapses under the weight of absurdity about the time we get to the train loaded with silver bullets meant to kill the vampires fighting for the south at the Battle of Gettysberg. The entire tone of the film changes abruptly in the second half of the film, from a personal story into something like a computer game disconnected from reality.
It is one thing to have a story in which vampires actually exist. That is no different than a lot of other such tales, like the Harry Potter movies. One of the key elements in theses kinds of movies is that the existence of vampires, wizards, or whatever, are kept secret from most people. In most cases, such as in the Harry Potter and Hellboy movies, all manner of creatures exist in a separate world of their own, a world most people are not aware of. In most vampire films, there are mechanisms in place to prevent the general public from learning of the existence of vampires, and for good reasons.
This film follows this same vampire secrecy protocol for the first half of the movie. But once vampires come out into the open and make themselves known, that changes the reality of the world. Suddenly, it becomes impossible to reconcile our world with the world of the movie. That is O.K. if you start off with that premise, as has been done in such films as “Zombieland,” “28 Days Later” and “Daybreakers” which take place in alternate futures. This film, however, tries to have it both ways and that dog just won't hunt.
Another annoying thing about the film is that it defies vampire tradition. In this film, vampires can walk around in daylight, and can be killed with silver bullets, a weapon usually reserved for werewolves. Vampires in this story can also make themselves invisible, as well as being super strong, fast and not subject to aging. A few guys with silver-coated axes like Abe Lincoln (played by Benjamin Walker of “Flags of Our Fathers,” who looks like a young Liam Neeson) are not going to make much of a dent in this army of super beasties. They've got too many advantages over mere mortals.
The story covers a time span of pretty much the entire life of Lincoln, and then some. As a child, Lincoln witnesses a vampire bite his mother, who dies from the resulting vampiric infection. He seeks revenge on the vampire, belatedly learning that he is over matched. A stranger, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper of “Captain America: The First Avenger”) intervenes and saves Lincoln. He then teaches Lincoln how to be a vampire hunter. The usual fight training montage follows. Lincoln emerges as a superhero with his silver-coated axe, slaying vampires left and right.
Against the teachings of Sturgess, Lincoln falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead of “Live Free or Die Hard”) and gets involved in politics. His vampire slaying activites attact the notice of the head vampire in the U.S., the 5,000-year-old Adam (Rufus Sewell of “The Tourist”), who doesn't look a day over 44. That means, of course, there has to be a showdown between Lincoln and Adam at some point, and there is.
The film does have a nice look to it with plenty of good special effects and CGI recreations of historic developments in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. The over-the-top action scenes, like a battle atop a burning train on a burning bridge, are impressive. The acting is also good enough, but the movie's two mismatched halves just don't work together. It is like trying to paste the first half of “Die Hard” onto the last half of “300.” This film rates a C.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.