I’m not exactly sure what the advertising tagline is for this film — as a matter of fact, near as I can tell it doesn’t seem to actually have one — but I know what it ought to be : “Silver — It’s Not Just For Werewolves Anymore.”
Look, I don’t consider myself to be a scholar of the vampiric arts (or whatever they’re called) by any means — I’ve never seen True Blood or any of the Twilight films, for instance — but I know what kills these guys : wooden stakes through the heart. Garlic. Holy water. Sunlight.
Silver? That’s for lycanthropes. But apparently not anymore. Or, rather, not in the 1800s. Don’t get me wrong — director Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter (based on the novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, and produced by Tim Burton, whatever that’s worth) is a clever enough little piece of throwaway historical revisionism : vampires were responsible for the death of Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker)’s parents and so, concurrent with his rise in politics, he also undertakes a crusade, under the watchful eye of his mysterious mentor, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) to kill as many of them as he can in his off-hours with this kick-ass silver-bladed trick axe that he’s got. To make matters even worse, these dastardly vampires also control the slave trade (guess it’s too controversial these days to point out that it was other human beings who were responsible for shackling, buying, selling, and ultimately working to death their brethren for generations), and we know how the man in the stove pipe hat felt about that whole dastardly business.
Okay, fair enough — while I’m sure our fellow countrymen and women south of the Mason-Dixon line might take some offense at the idea that their side in the war is depicted here as being controlled by vampires, my honest response to that is one of “tough shit, you’re getting off easy — your real ancestors (not that it’s in any way rational to hold people responsible for the actions of their forefathers) were fighting to keep people enslaved not because they were manipulated by supernatural forces but because they were just plain greedy and racist. Feel better now?,” in point of fact it’s actually a pretty clever pretense. Even clever enough to (almost) sustain an entire film.
But then we come back to this whole goddamn silver thing. Seriously, it’s like vampire Kryptonite in this flick. There’s just no getting around how easy it makes to kill ‘em off. And that undermines what otherwise would be a pretty entertaining enough little thrill ride. The performances are perfectly decent on the whole. The costumes, sets, and effects, are all top-notch. The historicity, while complete bullshit, holds together coherently enough. And the whole thing doesn’t take itself too terribly seriously, always something this reviewer in particular appreciates. But the sheer amount of suspension of disbelief required to actually thoroughly (as opposed to in a rather half-hearted and detached “oh, that’s kinda clever” sort of way) enjoy this film becomes a bridge just a tad too far when we throw this annoying new mega- wrinkle into the vampire mythos. I get why they did it, but it grates just the same, and Grahame-Smith’s story relies on it so heavily that it takes what would otherwise be an acceptable enough deus ex machina and turns it into a thick, heavy, lumbering, unyielding crutch. Think of it as the silver straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?