Director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) charges into the story without any regard for making anything settle in your minds. In one line or two, he establishes all you need to know about each character and then hurtles the plot forward into the next action sequence. There is no care in creating any sort of empathy to his characters. They remain one-dimensional and rely heavy on the idea that if a person is good, we should like him or her and if a person is evil, then we should hate him. It is almost as if Bekmambetov is relying on the idea that since his lead is one of the most loved and inspiring American presidents, he doesn't have to do much to make us like him.
Instead, relative newcomer Benjamin Walker has to try and make the revenge-hungry Abraham Lincoln likable despite the fact that he starts out driven to vengeance by the death of his mother and father, awkward around people, and maybe a little self-righteous. Then he sees how the African Americans are being treated, and in one fell swoop, becomes a statesman of considerable influence. Unfortunately, Walker does not have the presence or the gravitas to carry the role, chosen more for his close resemblance to the actual Abraham Lincoln than any sort of real poise or confidence. He does not command attention.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sacrifices story for action, and I'm no snob. I can enjoy a popcorn movie on its own merits but the frenetic action sequence and gore uses a whole range of choreography and effects to dazzle us with how clever they are but the truth of the matter is, he's done better work in Wanted and we've seen better work in other movies. The action sequences, even in the most convoluted of popcorn films, are always more exciting if you have someone to root for or someone to hate on. Not only do I not feel any empathy for any character in the film, I'm not afraid for anyone because Abraham Lincoln can match any of the vampires due to the power of truth. Apparently, if you are honest, you can chop down a tree with one strike of an axe, take inhuman amounts of damage, and become an expert in parkour. At least, that's how they explained it in the movie.
The attempt at a love story is relegated to girl meets awkward boy, sees a good person, and flirts a bit. He finds her pretty and nice and they fall in love. Why? We're not sure. But I guess this is how things go in the 1830s. That's as complex as it gets, really, except for the fact that she was the fiance to a rich man and she gave it up to be with the man she loves, a man she just met, practically. But the movie doesn't address that, so it probably wasn't at all important.
The film was rich with potential but instead of not taking itself too seriously and playing out the campiness of its subject matter, it went the other way entirely and completely failing in its attempt. At least the vampires don't sparkle in the sunlight, but if this film was a vampire, you couldn't put a stake through its heart. It had none.