Seth Grahame-Smith is one of the hottest writers right now having recently completed "Dark Shadows"; he is in line for the rumored reboot of "Beetlejuice"; and depending on how "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" does in the theaters we could be seeing his other novel ("Pride and Prejudice and Zombies") developed for the big screen. It doesn't hurt that "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is directed by the brilliant Timur Bekmambetov, who brings a dark edge to the vision of the best-selling novel. For those that have seen the vampires from Timur Bekmambetov's "Night Watch" (2004) and "Day Watch" (2006), you can expect a lot of the same.
Seth Grahame-Smith is unapologetic about how fictionalized the story is, which requires you to check your disbelief at the door. The story includes many of the historical moments in the life of Abraham Lincoln, including the Lincoln-Douglas debates with Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk), his marriage to Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the battles of the Civil War against his Confederate counterpart Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) and alludes to his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. However, the film also takes liberties with who Lincoln worked with during the Civil War, such as Harriet Tubman (Jaqueline Fleming). The story reveals the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovers the role vampires played in our nation.
Casting a relatively unknown as the part of the 16th President of the United States was a wise decision. Benjamin Walker is an accomplished stage performer where he was the lead in the Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. This allows for the character to grow from a young man into the man that many know from the history books. As a young boy, Lincoln loses his mother to the vampire Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) and swears lifelong vengeance. With the assistance of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a vampire, Lincoln continues down the path of abolishing slavery as it was the vampires that ran most of the slave trade for their own food.
Dominic Cooper is coming off a big year in 2011 where he was the son of a dictator (The Devil's Double), the father of a super hero (Captain America) and worked with an icon (My Week with Marilyn). He is brilliant in everything he does and it is no different in how he spins and works the influence of Abraham Lincoln into the man that the history books remember.
As can be expected there were several omissions in the film as compared to the book. One that I was hoping would be included was Edgar Allen Poe, who according to the novel was first encountered on the streets of New Orleans and Lincoln kept as a close friend who had knowledge of vampires. Poe provided a historical account of the vampires that Henry was unwilling to provide (in the film the history is linked early through Jack Barts and his brother Adam, Rufus Sewell, as the main villains). Perhaps the omission was also for the same reason that Lincoln's drinking in the early part of his life was not mentioned as several of the early vampire encounters take place during drunken moments; and the known drug use of Poe would discount the believability of an already unbelievable story. Another omission is the final chapter of Abraham Lincoln's life with the assassination by John Wilkes Booth, who was also a vampire. Wil Johnson (Anthony Mackie) was not in the novel, but Lincoln did have two partners that fought along his side. The train was not a part of the story either, but helps contribute to making the unimaginable story something plausible. The tempo of the film was a bit rushed in the middle, so developing these other characters would have detracted from the action in the story.
While many of the special effects worked for me, the make-up was inconsistent. I enjoyed how they aged Benjamin Walker with more than just giving Lincoln a beard. However, it was unnoticeable in how the make-up artists aged the young and beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead or Anthony Mackie. If it was more than a wisp of grey hair I couldn't noticed it.
I had very high hopes for this film and I must say I was still entertained, but as can be expected the book was better. I could see this film receiving a special effects nomination for the work with the vampires, but even though the acting was well done it shouldn't be expected on any Oscar lists. The film is over the top, fast paced, bloody, and very well done. If you want to see vampires getting hacked, slashed, and bashed to death in a wide variety of ways, you'll enjoy this movie. While I will not embellish with a perfect rating, this is certainly a 3 Quack film.