We've seen WonderCon's exclusive Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter footage, and it's chock full of our sixteenth president taking his trusty axe to evil vampires's chests. It's exactly the sort of crazy over-the-top action you'd expect from the director of Wanted!
The footage starts with Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) and his longtime friend and valet Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) on a train en route to Gettysburg. Lincoln says they are eighty miles away, and those eighty miles will determine whether the country belongs to the living or the dead. Just then, vampires start jumping onto the sides of the train, and so Lincoln grabs his ax and Will his guns to do battle.
After giving each other a brief look of camaraderie, the pair go to work, with Johnson heading to the top of the train while Lincoln works his way through the cars. A vampire rushes the President, and Lincoln throws his ax straight through the attacker. Above, Will fires his guns, picking off vampires left and right. Lincoln sticks his ax into a beam and uses them to swing into the next vampire and kick it in the chest. Another vampire approaches, and Lincoln uses his ax to choke it and then throws it off the train.
Meanwhile, a female vampire sets a rail bridge on fire - one the train is fast approaching. Back on the train, Will is under heavy fire, and he looks done for until Lincoln pops up and blows a vampire away with the part of his ax that is also a shotgun - you can get a glimpse of that bad boy in the newly released trailer. They look about to win the day, but suddenly Rufus Sewell's head vampire Adam shows up and easily dodges all of Lincoln and Will's suddenly flailing attacks. As some of the train cars fly off the fiery, collapsing bridge, Lincoln and Will try to jump across to one of the cars that still has a chance to make it to the other side.
The footage was pretty much exactly what you would expect from Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov, full of violent action that somehow manages to be both visceral and weirdly graceful. Bekmambetov remains one of the few directors who can pull off a slow motion shot and actually make it work. In terms of pure action, this setpiece suggests the movie should deliver the goods at least as well as Wanted - and whatever else one might say about Wanted, the action sequences were solid. The big unanswered question is how these setpieces will fit into the movie's twisted historical narrative and how well the movie hits the right tone in its crazy mash-up.
The panel featured Bekmambetov, original novelist and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, and star Ben Walker. Grahame-Smith explained that the movie had to make some key departures from the book, including adding two key characters. The first was a lead vampire villain on which to center the film's conflict on, which came in the person of Rufus Sewell's Adam, the chief of all vampires. The second was Will Johnson, who was Lincoln's real-life friend and valet and added a vital ally for the character's journey.
The panel also discussed how this truly is meant as a superhero movie. Grahame-Smith said that Lincoln's real, non-vampire story, starting with the death of his mother, is one full of the same sort of pain and redemption through heroism that is so often seen in superhero origin stories, and that he considers Lincoln America's only true superhero. (I feel like Franklin D. Roosevelt and George Washington might want a word with him on that one, but I see his point.)
For his part, Ben Walker said that there are so many biographies of Lincoln to look for in his research, but a lot of them are more concerned with the political side of Lincoln, which isn't a key part of his movie. He pointed to The Melancholy of Lincoln as a key influence on his character, as it covers how Lincoln dealt with death and depression, not to mention his poetry (which I'm guessing does not feature heavily in the film). Walker said that it's an honor as an American to be allowed to play Lincoln, and that he loves the idea of a leader who is ready to kick ass and decapitate villains. That's a sentiment I think we can all get behind.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens June 22.