Dracula Untold is Unremarkable


      Despite what the studio moguls behind this movie believe (and believe me, this was no product of a filmmaker), we’ve seen this movie before. At least, we’ve seen everything it has to offer many times before. The “innocent” kingdom threatened by a menacing empire with an army of thousands. The noble leader forced to make a difficult choice in order to save his family. The short and not very sweet scene of said leader smiling and beaming with his lovely wife and son before everything goes to hell, a scene that just sits there begging the audience. “Care about these people…please?” Indeed, “Dracula Untold” is a misfire in almost every way, not the least of which is its ability to bore even while painting what should be beautiful images on the screen. Even with expansive European locales and plenty of opportunity for garish but gorgeous cinematography, the film is quite drab visually, with few exceptions. A glimpse of Vlad the Impaler climbing over a cliff, red cape flapping in the wind. A shot of his wife and son gaping through a castle opening as thousands of bats swarm by in a haze of black. The brutal beauty of a vampire’s body corroding in sunlight. These are fleeting reminders of the movie that could be. Nevertheless, I’m not here to review the movie that could be, I’m here to review the movie that is. This installment of Dracula is predictable and lazy. It’s a film where our noble leader gives one of those dramatic speeches about bravery and honor to his troops before they head into battle. It’s also a film that is slightly, only slightly, salvaged by a couple of respectable performances, and an ending coda that somehow put a grin on my face. Luke Evans, as Vlad, then Dracula (because for some reason he decides to embrace the moniker of “son of the devil” after an entire movie of rejecting it), does all he can to inject the role with some brand of vigor. Accompanying him amid the sea of bland baroque is Charles Dance of “Game of Thrones” fame. In one scene he’s saddled with the most monotonous of expository dialogue, explaining to Vlad his possible fate should he make the deal with the devil that will grant him the power necessary to defeat that menacing empire (here, it’s the Turks). Of course, this deal is what turns Vlad into Dracula. And Dance’s stature sells it. The subsequent consequences of this deal nearly sell the movie. One sequence stands out, as Vlad’s wife plummets to her death, the soon-to-be Dracula leaps after her, his pet mass of bats billowing behind him, and a particularly angelic song covers the scene of impending tragedy. Typically, these songs are overused and/or reek of attempting to ape “The Lord of the Rings,” but here it works. The song almost makes me care. Sure enough, tragedy arrives in many ways. And that ending coda? Perhaps this director has a better affinity for a modern day setting than a medieval one, because it’s the best scene in the film, but it’s too little too late. On the other hand, it might spell promise for Universal’s future plans of a monster movie universe. For now, “Dracula Untold” is a rocky start to such plans.

Grade: C- 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.