At some point in the development of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, somebody made the call to play it completely straight, as if Honest Abe was a serious enemy to the undead during his young adulthood and presidency—and there was nothing funny about it.
This film has no sense of humor. None. It wants to be taken seriously, but that's simply impossible, because it's a movie about Abraham Lincoln killing vampires. It needs to be stupid and campy, and it plays like a bad Civil War movie, with the occasional bloodsucker thrown in for spice.
I suppose this would be forgivable if director Timur Bekmambetov—who also helmed the interesting vampire flick Night Watch and the entertaining Wanted—had assembled some decent action scenes. However, the film is surprisingly lacking when it comes to the action. Abraham Lincoln (played by Benjamin Walker) looks cool the first couple of times he swings away with his ax, but it gets old fast. The fight scenes are edited so quickly and sloppily that it's hard to follow any of the action.
As for the vampires, they are just cartoons. CGI can be a great thing, but its overuse here takes viewers right out of the film, and the battles lose any sense of tension. CGI also mars the big action scenes, like the final battle aboard a train on a fiery bridge. You feel the protagonists are more in danger of death via an invasive computer virus than a rabid vampire.
Walker makes a decent-enough Lincoln as far as appearances go, yet he isn't given much to do other than look the part. Timothy Olyphant, Eric Bana and Adrien Brody were all considered for the role, and I can't help but think any of those actors would've brought a little more pizazz to the film.
Rufus Sewell and Marton Csokas play Lincoln's main vampire adversaries, and they are dull, dull, dull. Sewell is an actor with zero charisma.
This film actually manages to make Mary Elizabeth Winstead completely uninteresting (as opposed to her performance in The Thing, when she was only mildly uninteresting). As Mary Todd Lincoln, she's forced to stand around in period hairdo and dress. When I read that Winstead was in this, I thought for sure she would swing into action along with Lincoln. How fun would a husband/wife vampire-killing crew have been? Nope. Winstead, who has action-movie chops, just stands around moping because Abe tells fibs about what he does with his nights. That's a wasted opportunity.
Doesn't the title alone suggest campy, goofy fun? Wouldn't you expect to laugh a few times at the sight of the iconic stovepipe-hat-wearing Lincoln blasting bloodsuckers? Unfortunately, you are more likely to yawn than chortle.
The movie desperately needs a solid star. They should've paid somebody like Civil War movie vet Kevin Costner to play the head vampire, what with his Dances With Wolves pedigree. That would've been weird fun. As for the tone, I was expecting something more like Evil Dead 2 than the stupid Underworld movies.
The film does suggest that the Confederacy consisted of many vampires, and the tide of the war didn't turn until Lincoln realized he had to use silver on them. Again, the Confederacy being made up of a bunch of vampires could be funny, but nothing is done with the premise other than the occasional Confederate soldier's face sprouting fangs via shitty special effects.
If you are going to see this despite my warning, don't shell out the extra for 3-D. This is some of worst 3-D since 2010's Clash of the Titans.
How can you make a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter boring? Well, Bekmambetov has most certainly found a way.