Dracula Untold Review
A BLOCKBUSTER ITERATION THAT’S
MORE ACTION FANTASY THAN HORROR
Deriving from shadowy legends of monsters and made infamous by Irish author Bram Stoker, Vlad the Impaler or, his more common name, Dracula has risen and fallen time and time again in the world of movies and films. There have been many iterations and reincarnations of this iconic vampire over the years, leaving the prospect of generating something new and different for Dracula’s exploits bleak in an already saturated pool of feature films. Universal Pictures debuts the latest entry in this long list of movies with the film Dracula Untold. Does this revamped film revive the infamous vampire or does it “suck” (Pun intended).
Raised among the Turks and trained to be a terror on the battlefield, Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) seeks to rid himself of his past and settle down and rule his kingdom justly with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gardon) and his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson). His solace life is shattered one day when the Turkish sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) comes to invade Vlad’s Transylvania homeland with his vast army. Unwilling to bow the sultan’s demands, Vlad journeys to the Broken Tooth Mountains and encounters a ancient vampire (Charles Dance), a maleficent being who sees an opportunity within Vlad to fuel his fiendish desires. Vlad strikes a dark deal with the vampire, exchanging his humanity for unworldly powers of the night in an attempt to save his kingdom from Mehmed II. But at what cost as Vlad the Impaler slowly becomes the monster of legend….Dracula.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
From the get go, it’s clear that Dracula Untold has little in common with Bram Stoker. Making his directorial debut, Gary Shore and his production team revamp the legendary vampire, “defanging “him from other his classic persona and reposition him as a somewhat a dark superhero of sorts. It’s an interesting concept, one that’s never been used for this character. However, the structure of the film’s narrative (playing out like a superhero origin) hits the all too familiar beats one who find in a commonplace Marvel or DC comic adaption. Dracula gains his powers, encounters minor obstacles to overcome, and handles a couple of setbacks before the big showdown towards the film’s end. It would’ve been interesting to see play out differently, but it’s adequate enough.
The movie is mostly (but not completely) devoid of horror, yet still proves chills and fantasy imagery, one that’s on par with most PG-13 films. Again, keeping with the “superhero” theme, Dracula Untold conveys a broader view in scope, creating a world of heroes and villains that runs similar to a summer blockbuster film. Battles are bigger, visual effects are heavier, and the action sequence are loud and rambunctious. The battle scenes are, of course, the highlight of the film with Dracula taking on a vast amount of men with superhuman strength and transforming into a cluster of winged bats when agility and speed are needed. There are a few twists in the film, but nothing groundbreaking. The movie’s ending does sets itself up for a potential sequel, but whether or not that sequel will be green lit is another thing entirely.
As its lead character, Luke Evans does a good job playing Vlad / Dracula. He has the quality of hero in his character, while also having that dark brooding look to him; making a suitable choice for Dracula Untold’s main lead. The other noteworthy star in Dracula Untold is Charles Dance’s character “Master Vampire”. An odd name to be sure, but Dance’s performance brings chills factor up (even if his make-up design is a little haphazard). The rest of the cast is pretty forgetful, populated by a couple of recognizable faces here and there. However, the film has a minimal amount of time given to them, making majority of its supporting characters one-dimensional. Even the movie’s antagonist Mehmed II, played by Dominic Cooper, is weak and just comes off as a flat villian.
The film does give more human characteristics to Dracula; fighting for love for his wife and child, devotion for defending his people from invasion, and the sacrifices he must make for both. While its nice touch, it doesn’t really convey well on-screen. With a running time roughly around 95 minutes, the movie is indeed fast paced, but has little time to spend on secondary characters or even its world building ideas. Then there is a lot of hastily work on its mythmaking machinery that’s quickly presented with little time to fully understand. Perhaps, given more time to the film, director Gary Shore could’ve cultivated a truer and slightly more cognitive understanding to this gothic “dark hero” of a tale for audience members to fully immerse themselves in.
In the end, Dracula Untold is a good distraction to watch. It presents a unique take on the legendary vampire with summer blockbuster flair and action razzmatazz. It’s fast paced, stylish, and somewhat entertaining, to say the least. Unfortunately, its heavy mythmaking is sloppy as well as its generic flat characters that taint the movie from reaching cinematic greatness. All in all, it’s an okay to watch, but don’t expect the movie to be the “definitive” feature film to Bram Stoker’s vampire creation.
3.3 out of 5 (Rent It)