“History prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to quiet deeds. History remembers the battle, but forgets the blood. Whatever history remembers me, if it remembers anything at all, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth.”
In 1818, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) lives in Indiana with his parents, Nancy (Robin McLeavy) and Thomas (Joseph Mawle), who works at a plantation owned by Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). There, Lincoln befriends a young African American boy, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie), and intervenes when he sees Johnson being beaten by a slaver. Because of his son’s actions, Thomas is fired. That night, Lincoln sees Barts break into his house and attack Nancy. She falls ill the following day, and dies shortly afterwards. Thomas tells Lincoln that Barts poisoned Nancy.
Nine years later, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) decides to get revenge against Barts. He attacks Barts at the docks, but Barts overpowers him, revealing himself to be a vampire. However, before being killed by Barts, Lincoln is rescued by a man called Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who takes Lincoln to his mansion. There, Sturges reveals that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln how to become a vampire hunter. Lincoln accepts, and, after 10 years of training, travels to Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, where he begins to slay vampires. During his training, Lincoln is told by Sturges that the vampires that live in America descend from Adam (Rufus Sewell), a powerful vampire who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Lincoln also learns that vampires often feed off of the slaves.
In Springfield, Lincoln befriends shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is also being courted by a local politicial, Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk). Barts is one of the vampires living in Springfield, and, upon learning of Lincoln’s presence, he begins to target Mary. One day, Lincoln receives a visit from Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who now helps freed slaves to escape through the Underground Railroad. Johnson asks for Lincoln’s help to evade bounty hunters who were hired to eliminate him. Lincoln and Johnson defeat the bounty hunters, and Lincoln later tells Mary what happened. She encourages him to fight for his ideals, and Lincoln begins to speak against slavery. Sturgess visits him, and says that he needs to focus on his mission. Sturges then provides Lincoln with Barts’ location.
Lincoln confronts Barts, where Barts is mortally wounded. Before dying, Barts reveals that Sturgess is a vampire as well. Lincoln confronts Sturges, who reveals that, several years before, him and his girlfriend were attacked by Adam, who bit them both. Because Sturges’ soul wasn’t pure, he became a vampire, and that prevented him from harming his “creator” or any other vampire since as Adam stated, “Only the living can kill the dead”. Since then, Sturges has been training vampire hunters in an effort to destroy Adam.
Lincoln, disappointed, decides to abandon his mission. However, Adam learns of his activities and captures Johnson in order to lure Lincoln into a trap at his plantation in New Orleans. Lincoln tells Speed the truth and they travel to Adam’s estate, where Lincoln is captured. However, Speed storms into the mansion and rescues Lincoln and Johnson, and the three escape back to Ohio.
Lincoln marries Mary and hires Speed as his assistant and Johnson as his valet, allowing Johnson to continue his duties with the Underground Railroad undercover. Sturges warns Lincoln that slaves are what keeps vampires under control, and if Lincoln interferes with that, there’ll be an uprising, but Lincoln ignores his warnings. Lincoln defeats Douglas and is elected President of the United States of America. He signs the Emancipation Proclamation and moves to the White House with Mary, where they have a son, William Wallace Lincoln (Cameron M. Brown). Years later, in 1861, Willie is bitten by Vadoma. Sturges offers to turn Willie into a vampire in order to save him, and although Mary wants him to, Lincoln stops him. Following their son’s death, Lincoln is blamed by his wife.
With the slaves freed, the vampires begin to attack all humans. Lincoln deploys his troops to confront the vampires, but the monsters gain the upper hand because of their supernatural powers. Sturges tries to convince Lincoln to offer Adam a truce, but Lincoln refuses, and is informed that Adam’s army has repelled Lincoln’s forces in the Battle of Gettysburg.
What is Abraham’s plan to save the country and end this terrible war? Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to watch the movie to find out the ending 🙂
There’s a lot to say about this film, as there’s been a lot of criticisms. So I’m going to quickly break down some of other people’s opinions on the movie and my thoughts on them.
Firstly, obviously people had a problem with this movie being that it’s about the abolition of slavery, the Civil War, plus it’s based on a beloved president and I think some people have the opinion that this movie belittles reality and takes away from what really happened. Well, being British my knowledge of Abraham Lincoln is limited to his stovepipe hat and beard, the Civil War, abolition of slavery, and assassination at the theatre by John Wilkes Booth. I think that’s why, for starters, I don’t feel too impacted that the history of Abraham Lincoln is changed. I personally feel for film purposes it’s an entertaining idea and when I watch it, I don’t watch it as if Abraham really existed, I just see him for what he is and that’s a film character. In regards to it belittling slavery because it pretty much says “vampires did it” well, it’s a film and I can completely understand why that could offend someone but for me, I just saw it an interesting twist on history that made sense in storyline terms.
Secondly, of course this film is based off a book and as anyone who’s ever read a book that has been adapted into a film knows, when this happens it usually is always terrible or misses out bits you feel were relevant. Unfortunately, in reality, producers who make book adaptions feel they have to edit things to sell the film and although it sucks, it’s what they always do (Check out my Queen Of The Damned review to see how I felt about that nightmare). I read that in the book the characters have a lot more backstory and detail, which is another problem with films – unless they’re 6 hours long they’ll never be able to incorporate enough backstory and detail about everyone and everything to compare to the books. The characters in the film missing backstory is something I completely agree with, I felt much of the characters needed more to them and felt like I didn’t care for them as much as I should have and I really wanted to know more about them but there just wasn’t enough time. Some of the best scenes in the movie are the characters’ pasts, such as Henry being turned and Abraham’s childhood, but they feel shortlived.
Finally, I’ve also read that people thought the abundance of action was there to hide the lack of a good storyline and although part of me wants to agree due to my longing for more backstory, I have to disagree. I really enjoyed this movie, I thought it was entertaining, and had enjoyable characters that I wanted to see succeed and although the idea of Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter may appear comical to some (of course it is when you think initially of the idea), the way in which it’s delivered makes it serious and personally, makes me forget that it’s supposed to be based around actual historical events. Discussing it with others, someone said that it feels as if the movie doesn’t know what it should be, with some scenes of Abraham Lincoln giving speeches when next minute he’s axing a vampires head in two but, I think it works together and after all, that is his character – he has two sides to him that he has to balance against each other.
My favourite character besides Abraham was of course, Henry – because I’m a total sucker for that age old, guilty vampire persona.
Although I really enjoyed this movie, I can’t give it anything higher because I wish there was more to the characters. It seems the film focuses more on progression of the story than the people in it.
In the bit before the climax of the film where they have no idea how to defeat the vampire army and think all is lost, well…that’s pretty damn stupid. For one, Ol’ Abe has his nice silver axe tucked away in a trunk in his house, did he just forget he spent 10 years training how to kill vampires and then many more years slicing them apart with a silver axe? And secondly, Henry could have easily just reminded them “hey guys, uh remember silver is deadly to my kind?”, I know he thought them going up against slavery was not a good idea but when it came to it he could have casually mentioned it. That’s something ridiculous I had to mention because it makes no sense. As if we’re supposed to forget that silver exists and then be amazed when Abraham remembers their one weakness, even though that’s like the whole beginning half of the movie? (I was going to add that to the main bit of my opinion, but then I might aswell explain the ending to people who haven’t seen it, and that’s silly…)
Here’s two pretty photos of Henry to ease the pain of any negative points I mentioned:
*Update: Bought the novel so will be reading that to see how it compares 🙂
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter