Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for those inept at reading context clues, is about an alternative history in which America's sixteenth president Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) undertakes the job of being a vampire hunter, as a means to revenge the death of his mother at the hands of the monsters of the night. To some extent this job is thrust upon him by an expert vampire hunter named Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) who engages in the act, as a means of revenge himself. Lincoln must keep this act of hunting vampires a secret as he engages with other notable historical figures, whether it be his historical friend Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) or Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), as well as one Stephen Douglass (Alan Tudyk) and Jefferson Davis (John Rothman) whom the film cast in the light of being similar to the vampires. As Lincoln struggles with the question of slavery and an imminent war, his engagement with vampire hunting comes to the fore front after he confronts the lead vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell) only to fail to defeat him initially. In a purely Hollywood move the final confrontations lay upon the battlefields of the Civil War, most notably that of Gettysburg, in which Lincoln requires that all silver be move to the battle front to help kill the vampires who have become soldiers for the Confederate Army. This is where history coalesces, and the North wins, slaying the vampires in the process, Lincoln delivers his famous Gettysburg Address, but in this filmic narrative it has a edge towards condemning the vampires as well. The film then fast forwards to present day where we are shown a man of African-American descent sitting at a bar being approached by Henry to become a vampire hunter for a new age...
If that closing scene does not prove problematic there are certainly a list of other problems in the "message" of this film. First off, like Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, AL: VH takes liberties to condemn the entire south as evil, going so far as to suggest that the vampires are fully responsible for the trading and abusing of slaves. This action results in dismissing the true scar on American history by suggesting that it was enacted by some demonic force. Similarly, the film suggests that at some point during the war the entire Confederate army was that of vampires making their being killed a moment of glorious celebration, at least that was the case in the theater where I viewed the film. I had trouble with this scene specifically, partially because it was just ungrounded cinematic bloodshed, but also because it dehumanizes the deaths of soldiers in America's bloodiest war, which indeed witnessed a very real amount of human bloodshed. Finally, the gumption of the film's director to reconsider such important speech as Lincoln's Gettysburg Address as a means to condemn vampires, or that Jefferson Davis himself dealt with the dark lords, is in bad taste. Such scenes could have proved as a means to get viewers not familiar with historical rhetoric to truly consider that ethical problems of slavery and human oppression, but instead it just serves as a stepping stone for another set of stylized vampire killings. Finally, regardless of political leanings the blatant connection between Lincoln and Obama in the films closing shot is egregiously problematic.
Key Scene: The stampede battle is quite well-crafted and paced ending in a explosive manner that was deserved of the applause it received.
To dismiss this movie completely would be incredibly unfair, however, one must take it very critically to realize the problems the rethinking of a troublesome portion of American history visits. It is not intended to be a political commentary, but an argument could be made that the film does not do enough to deter the possibility for interpretations.