There is a story we have all wanted to see hit the big screen. A story so riddled with bravery, adversity, and triumph that it has intimidated many storytellers from even attempting to write such a tale; that is, until Seth Grahame-Smith took on the task of writing one of the most inter-historical epistolary novels I’ve ever read. Seeing the trailer for this truly epic story coming to film was exciting to say the least. A story about the life and times of our 16th president with the added fact that he was secretly a hunter of vampires should never be deemed blasphemous. In my opinion, it made the history more interesting while still getting the core point across. I’m going to compare the movie to the novel so beware of…
The movie starts up pretty much the same way the book does. Young Abraham (Benjamin Walker) witnesses his mother get poisoned by vampire blood and vows to take down the evil monster that did it. Only that task proves to be harder than he thinks when he almost dies at the hands of the devious creature. In the novel, it is not so hard for Abe to slaughter the beast and he even does so at a much younger age than he is in the film, but this is a different telling so I will forgive that.
There are slight differences in the character of Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) as well but they are also forgivable. It’s the characters that they don’t show that sort of off-sets the greatness of the book. In both adaptations, Sturges trains Lincoln to become the next master vampire hunter. Sturges believes in keeping the animals at bay with certain tactics but Abe thinks it feasible to wipe them off the planet, which is exactly what he intends to do. This, of course, brings a rift between the two and causes Abraham to lose out on some important guidance along the way.
For hundreds of years, vampires have fed on the blood of slaves through the slave trade. This is how they have kept off the radar for so long. When Lincoln learns this, he sets out to stop all slavery and gains some pretty scary enemies for it. He preaches, “As long as ALL men are not free, we are all slaves.” An inspiring sentiment but Henry does not agree with the tactic. Abraham continues with his destiny nonetheless and begins the war on slave trade. The interesting thing about the novel is the historical figures he meets along the way, such as Edgar Allen Poe, who originally provides Lincoln with the information on how exactly the vampires are tied to the trading of slaves. There is also a cool tie-in with Elizabeth Bathory, the woman who would bathe in the blood of her victims – speculated to be over 650 females in total. Her reign of terror actually gave me nightmares in high school. The way the novelist conjoined that with the notion of the existence of vampires made me so intrigued, I couldn’t put the book down after that. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these fun side stories in the movie, but it still ended up being a damn good theatre flick.
Benjamin Walker was surprisingly acceptable as President Lincoln. Being able to watch him grow into looking like the man we know from our own history was fun. Mary Elizabeth Winstead played the beautiful Mary Todd and she did a damn good job at creating this amazing relationship with Lincoln over the several years that they knew each other. Jimmi Simpson playing Joshua Speed was definitely my favorite casting, though. This is because the actor is so good at keeping you from determining true intentions. It made it especially hard to predict the loyalty of his character and had me changing opinions of him throughout the movie. Abraham’s fight sequences were absolutely incredible as well. The blood splatters and unique choreography really made this movie a non-stop action thrill ride set during a pivotal time in history.
The director, Timur Bekmambetov (whom you may know from such films as Night Watch and the slightly over-the-top Wanted), was the perfect match for this type of story. The awesome, perfectly violent choreography was just the right fit. I do want to mention how much this movie does for generating interest in our nation’s history. I left the theatre looking up all the characters from the movie to see who was really who. This was a rather enjoyable moment because I found myself caring about what really happened. I think gaining that sort of interest out of the audience could make for a different sort of teaching technique. I, for one, would have listened much closer to the details in history class had there been supernatural lore surrounding our political figures.
Although I believe the movie as a whole was immensely entertaining, I see far more potential for fandom had they used the original ending to the novel. I won’t give that part away but I will say that it was ten times better than the ending they used for the film. I think that should pique your interest enough to check out both adaptations. I give Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter the film 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls.