While they do play it pretty straight, they do have fun with the fact that this is Abraham Lincoln. His weapon of choice is an axe. His nickname of "Honest Abe" comes into play. You see the real reasons behind the death of his son and the Civil War. While the first 3/4 of the movie could have been any person besides Lincoln, the last 1/4 of the film relies heavily on the fact that it is him.
And while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is played out seriously, the vampire battles are completely over the top. Lincoln kills vampires in ways that would make Blade say, "Really?" One fight takes place among a horse stampede. It's incredibly stupid and defies the laws of physics and common sense... but it's fun. It's just so insane to see Lincoln chasing a vampire while jumping across horses in the middle of a stampede, you can't help but say, "Now that's something I haven't seen before" and go along for the ride. We're also treated to Union soldiers fighting vampire Rebels, horses busting through walls of plantations, and a spectacular train battle. If you're into action, this does deliver as Timur Bekmambetov's films typically do.
As I watched Benjamin Walker play Abraham Lincoln, I kept thinking that he looked like a young Liam Neeson. Ironically, he did play a 19-year-old Neeson in Kinsey, but he and Neeson have a lot in common. They're both likable and strong presences. They're both believable in action scenes. And they both sell the often ridiculous concepts of the movies they're in. Walker carried the movie well. He's paired with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln and she does well, too. It's quite a contrast from her role as Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The rest of the cast including Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, and Marton Csokas do fine jobs as well.
While the 3D doesn't bring all that much to this movie, it did help with the vampires. As they transform and pop out of the screen, you can't help but jump away from them. They also do some strange effect with their eyes where there is real depth to their irises. It's like there's hollowness to them which I can't describe. I thought it was a creative way to enhance the monsters with 3D beyond having stuff simply fly out of the screen.
If you strip away the novelty of the lead character being Abraham Lincoln and the outrageous action settings, what you're left with is your standard vampire hunting story. The vampire hunter has some vendetta against the creatures for killing a family member, he trains to fight them, he eventually battles his way through most of them, then in the end he has a big boss fight with the leader to save someone he loves. It's like a script by Mad Libs – simply fill in the blanks. There's nothing new at the core of this story, and that makes it somewhat boring.
The pacing of the movie also has some issues. It's most interesting when we see young Abraham Lincoln battling vampires and falling in love. When it shifts gears to when he's an older President of the United States in the last quarter of the story, it starts getting quite dull. Things don't rev up again until he picks up the axe once more and the big finale starts.
If you're even remotely considering buying a ticket to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then you're a prime candidate to enjoy it. The title alone tells you everything you need to know, so if that appeals to you, then you'll probably enjoy the sight of our former president killing vampires and making speeches.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10