Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (20th Century Fox, R)

alincoln sqI kept finding small things to enjoy, but none of them actually added up to much.

 

alincoln 500

I’m going to say something you don’t hear often: I am a fan of Timur Bekmambetov. I don’t know that he can actually tell a coherent story, but he can sure make it look pretty. Back in Russia, he made two films called Night Watch and Day Watch, which also dealt with vampires and mythology. They didn’t make much sense, but the visuals were incredibly unique and exciting. I would equate him to Tarsem Singh, a flawed director whose visuals are strong enough—and, most importantly, creative enough—to get me interested in anything he’s doing. Timur’s first American film, Wanted, is at best a guilty pleasure, but I get a lot of pleasure from it. So there was never much question as to whether or not I would see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I figured if he could maintain that same vibe, I would probably enjoy myself.

I’ve had this feeling a lot lately, where I end up giving extra credit to movies for things that aren’t inherently special. For example, I praised Men in Black 3 for showing me aliens that weren’t robotic in nature. If I were watching Men in Black 3 in a vacuum, I wouldn’t give the alien design a second thought, but recent Hollywood trends have driven me to give the movie bonus points.

This happened a lot in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, too. It was nice to see a big-budget action movie that was rated R and had real violence in it. The violence was cartoony and fairly tame, but still. In this day and age, I have to give filmmakers points for portraying vampires as scary, ugly, pro-slavery monsters, and not tragic romantic heroes. These vampires are utterly generic, but at least they bite people—although sunlight doesn’t affect them and there are no crosses or garlic to be seen. Bekmambetov is good with training montages, which, post-Team America, seem all but extinct. Isn’t it nice that this big movie doesn’t seem to be setting up a franchise, but instead exists as a contained story? I liked seeing Anthony Mackie get to actually kick ass and not just be the black sidekick who helps out the hero, and then dies. He’s still not much of a character, but what are you gonna do?

Throughout the film, I kept finding small things to enjoy, but none of them actually added up to much. Don’t get me wrong; I know the title of the movie. I didn’t go in expecting a serious drama or even a serious action movie; all this movie had to do was not take itself too seriously and deliver some fun, over-the-top action. The action is there, but it’s so repetitive. A spinning, silver axe can only carry you so far. Bekmambetov’s imagery is less exciting here, as well. There are a few cool-looking moments, but overall, the movie looks bland. If I’m comparing Bekmambetov to Singh, this is his Immortals. It’s a few moments that appeal to me in the most base, primitive way imaginable, surrounded by a long, tedious movie which takes itself seriously but doesn’t have the weight to keep me engaged. | Sean Lass

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