When President Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) was a boy, he saw his good friend Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) beaten by a slavemaster named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) and he tried to step in to stop the whipping, which only got himself beaten too and his father (Joseph Mawle) into trouble with his bosses. But there was worse to come as later that night he was awoken in the bunk above his mother (Robin McLeavy) to witness her having her blood sucked by Barts, an act which led to her death. He didn't realise it then, but vampires were a growing blight on the nation...
There were two major movies about Abraham Lincoln released in 2012, and this entry was not the one which won the Oscars, it was that other one. Although you would have to be brave to admit it, the Steven Spielberg effort might have been enlivened for some with the addition of a spot of vampire hunting, as you could imagine in his capable hands he could have conjured up a measure of magic out of that premise. As it was, Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov was recruited, having previous experience with the bloodsuckers in feature film form at least, and he essayed his usual CGI-heavy endeavours to bring to life a tale which never truly lived up to that title.
It was taken from the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith who also penned the screenplay, and if nothing else proved that a notion which sounded like a joke pitch from a sketch show probably was better as a quip than it was as a full-length movie. You would think it was an outrageous premise to cast one of the most beloved of American Presidents as some kind of superhero, slaying vampires hither and thither, but oddly it didn't play out that way, as if once founding their basic plotline the makers were reluctant to really cut loose and do much with it that was nothing the equally action-oriented underperformer Van Helsing had done about ten years before, and with a likewise misfiring result.
Although the narrative stuck to basic schoolbook facts of Lincoln's life so as not to lose the general audience in a welter of in-jokes, that was not where the problem lay. The main issue was the fantasy aspect, which was so uninspired that you wondered if they were not going to really go crazy with the whole thing, why bother? Walker didn't convince as Lincoln, fair enough he wasn't really supposed to be doing a Daniel Day-Lewis after all, so any gravitas was a briefly glimpsed bonus, but crucially you didn't buy him as a vampire hunter badass either, thus illustrating the flimsiness of the plot which needed a lot more novelty, or at least the novelty you would have expected to see.
A long way from John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln in its depiction of its protagonist's early years, this had him taken under the wing of vampire slayer Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) who teaches him the ways of spinning an axe with both hands, a silver bladed axe at that, and promises his pupil he will get a shot at Barts if he takes out a few monsters in the South, which is where they are breeding the most. Here he meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and falls in love, thus prompting him to take up law and leave vampire hunting behind, though not before achieving one goal and finding a few surprises, though the main baddie Adam (Rufus Sewell) is still abroad in the land and amassing forces to bring about the Civil War. Any thought that this could be offensive by downplaying the slavery subject could be dispelled in that it did address it, but pussyfooted around in favour of the more pressing vampires, though even they are not all bad as if a nod to equality and truce. A movie which ends with Lincoln battling on a fiery locomotive should have been way more memorable. Music by Henry Jackman.