When you decide to make a 3D movie about Abraham Lincoln as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and one of the first scenes in your film involves a "comin' at ya" moment of a slave driver's whip, the lash of which ultimately lands and draws blood on a child slave's face, and your intention is to simultaneously invoke the literal horror of slavery and also to make your audience squeal with delight over a fake digital thing pretending to stick them in the eyes, you had better be some kind of cinemagician who knows how to walk the tightrope of bad taste without falling into the foulest of idiotic hell-pits or else you had better be the blithely unconcerned, kookoo-bananas, euro-director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted).
This is a film by Timur Bekmambetov.
In the ongoing war of the spoilers, I usually like to stay on the side of the wait-wait-don't-tell-me people. But this time around I've decided that I'd be a bad person if I didn't share one of the movie's goofier plot points. Because maybe you don't yet know where you fall in the debate over whether or not whipping children on film is horrifying or awesome. If not, that's fine, you can go have that argument with yourself and see who wins. But what if I also told you (here it comes -- back out now, purists) that abolitionist heroine Harriet Tubman is a character in this movie and that her job in the insane history-pulverizing plot is to help Abraham Lincoln smuggle silverware to assist in the Union's efforts to eradicate the vampire-infested Confederacy? Then how much would you pay to see it?
It's been awhile since I've seen any vintage Chinese hopping vampire films (that's a real thing, by the way) but I have a feeling Bekmambetov is fairly studied-up on the genre. His vampires move faster and more violently, but his Abe Lincoln is an ax-twirling kung fu master who can tap dance his way to safety off the top of an on-fire munitions train or through a horse stampede and still have enough energy left over to lead the Union to victory, write the Gettysburg address and come running when Mary Todd shouts, "Abe, we're late for the theater!" In a real way, even more so than last week's Adam Sandler box-office flop That's My Boy, this film has a special kind of power: it could very well make you dumber.
It's a jumble of real-world facts head-on-collisioned with antebellum vampirism that, as written in screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smiths' original novel, may very well have succeeded as a clever mash-up of history and lore of the undead. But the film version is pure numb sensation. There are James Bond-level gadget-weapons and dialogue so serious ("You cannot take on slavery, Abraham!") that the only proper response is to laugh out loud. There are runway model vampire vixens and men in puffy shirts and a vision of the past so frenzied and intentionally stupid-in-the-head that it's sort of like a very special slavery-themed episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
And now how much will you pay to see it?