Honest Abe. Father Abraham. The Great Emancipator. Mr. President. Vampire Hunter?
I have to admit, I was excited to finally see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The film is based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up novel of the same title. However, I almost hate to admit, as the film progressed on, I became slightly disappointed.
The film, with its screenplay by Grahame-Smith, uses a fictional journal that Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) kept as the source for its storytelling. In this journal, Lincoln tells of his encounters with the dark side of humanity: vampires. As a child, Lincoln witnesses the death of his mother at the hands of a vampire. This combined with witnessing his best friend, an African-American boy, get beaten unjustly, Lincoln vows revenge. As Lincoln becomes the man history tells us about, he begins to unravel a twisted web of slavery, vampires, and deceit. His role as the Great Emancipator struggles to be coupled with his vocation as Vampire Hunter.
The film is often repetitive, exhausting, bloody, and not as witty as I had expected. I viewed the film in 3D, which I assure you was by accident. My lack of desire for seeing the film in 3D was only confirmed because I did see it in 3D. The vampires’ mouths had to be open extra wide for their pointed teeth to have an effect. And even though novel and screenplay were written by the same pen, I prefer the book over the film on this one. It seems that in the attempt to make the story big-screen worthy, it lost some of its page-turning charm.
It leaves us wondering what was director Timur Bekmambetor, best known for the film Wanted, was thinking. It’s a shame Tim Burton didn’t direct this film, the story has a Burton-esque feel to it. (It might be interesting to note, that Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay for the Burton directed Dark Shadows). But I suppose if Burton did, Johnny Depp would have been transformed into the 16th President.
But, that’s not to say the film is without its theological ponderings. Lincoln, in fiction as in life, represents light, while the vampires (as opposed to the Southerns) represent darkness. The film’s most basic premise is that slavery is an agent of the vampires, or injustice is an agent of darkness.
Yet, underneath all of this, Lincoln is struggling throughout the film with his vocation. First, as the Vampire Hunter. And then as the President. Who is he? Lincoln is good at zoning in and focusing on one or the other role. It is when he is called upon to be the Vampire Hunter while President that we see a Lincoln conflicted. He left the life of the Vampire Hunter behind him. He is going to rid slavery and her vampires along with her through the office of President. He has retired his ax.
But, there is that piece of him that longs to pick up that ax again.
As people of faith we often ourselves in the same conflict. We are fulfilling one role at a time, but then God calls us to another role, perhaps at the same time. Take, for example, the Great Emancipator of the Hebrew slaves: Moses. He had left the life of an Egyptian Prince behind him and embraced the life of a simple shepherd. A new life, in a new land. When called to free the slaves, Moses’ two selves come crashing into one another. We get the feeling that he’d rather not return to Egypt, the place of his past.
In order to be himself and to fulfill his vocation, Moses had to reclaim a part of him he had tried to forget. He had to return to his past. A part of his life that was hard and difficult. But, a part of his life that molded and shaped who he became as he fulfilled his vocation. In a similar way, Lincoln has to reclaim the Vampire Hunter part of him. Not as a separate part from his vocation as President. But, rather, as self-discovering to his whole self.
Or, the film is just about the 16 President giving the ax to a bunch of vampires.