I saw Dracula Untold in the theater the other night.
Dracula Untold (2014) – Rated PG-13
“Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.”
“My father was a great man, a hero, so they say. But sometimes the world doesn’t need another hero, sometimes what it needs is a monster.”
Once upon a time, Universal decided to reboot its long-storied horror franchises with a film starring a handsome, up and coming actor, featuring a lot of stylized fighting, and heavily utilizing some new-fangled computer generated imagery (or CGI for those of you into acronyms). That monstrosity was Van Helsing. It was a good idea followed by a series of bad choices thereby ruining a potential franchise opportunity.
Did Universal learn from this opportunity? Not really. The reins for Dracula Untold were handed to a first time feature director, Gary Shore. He was given a script written by two first-time writers, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.
You would think that I would like illogical storylines since I adore fantasy, horror, and science fiction and those things by definition stretch the imagination. I have no problem accepting a ludicrous premise as the basis for a movie. The logic just has to be internally consistent.
I love Dracula. My favorite Dracula is the Christopher Lee Hammer version but this doesn’t stop me from enjoying the charms of Universal’s Bela Lugosi, the sexy Frank Langella version, or even the made-for-television Jack Palance version. There are certainly plenty of good ways to interpret an iconic character.
That said, I did not care for Luke Evans’ interpretation. He delivers his lines well but appears to be suffering from constipation throughout the film. His performance does have some magnetism to it but he comes off poorly in his scenes with Charles Dance.
Charles Dance is not the only Game of Thrones veteran in the cast. Art Parkinson, the quite neglected Rickon Stark (whatever happened to him?), plays Vlad’s son. It is not as thankless a role as Rickon but is still fairly minor with a single good scene. Sarah Gadon plays Vlad’s long-suffering wife, Mirena (sounds like Mina, hmmm).
One of Dracula Untold’s strongpoints is also its downfall. The action remains brisk at a mere hour and a half and no scene outstays its welcome. Unfortunately, with this being an origin story with a lot of required exposition, there is precious little time to develop a proper villain. Still it could be done except that the script basically decides that there should be a plethora of antagonists so none are actually developed.
Charles Dance’s character rules the screen but he can do a lot with a little. Dominic Cooper’s Mehmed is unfortunately a little generic aside from an absolutely ridiculous scene late in the film. No spoilers but we’re shown that Dracula is much faster and much, much stronger than a human yet that appears to not be the case when they meet. Obviously the writers and director thought this scene was very clever but it was more eye-rolling than anything else.
Speaking of eye-rolling, apparently not only are the Turkish soldiers uber-elite but they are capable of free climbing cliffs in FULL ARMOR. Not only does Dracula do this but so do many members of the Turkish army. The Turkish army also has no problem outmarching a group of refugees who have a good headstart on a fairly short trek. The silliness just takes you out of the suspension of disbelief necessary for this film.
While Dracula Untold is not worth your time or money, it is pretty, Charles Dance is great, Luke Evans isn’t bad, and the movie itself is a brisk hour and a half. You could do worse for Halloween. I’m just hoping for better. I’m looking at you Ouija, Horns, and Annabelle.