Movie Review: Dracula Untold
Stars: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Samantha Barks, Charles Dance
Rated PG-13 for for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality, Running time 92 minutes, Action/Fantasy/Drama
Compare to: Beowulf (2007), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
If there’s one major leap forward the screenwriters of 300 took for their fellow writers, it was rewriting history as an epic fantasy, free from constraints of the truth and backed by creative liberties. “Hey, this isn’t a documentary!” Then again, that’s what Bram Stoker did originally anyway, so I guess this isn’t that new.
Dracula Untold is an hour and a half of weaving in an out of cliches like a stone skipping on water. Sure, it’s only scratching the surface of what it pretends to be, but when you’re skipping stones, you’re doing just that; not plunging the depths.
Living in a time of peace, Lord Vlad Tepes III is visited by a rival kingdom demanding for Vlad to surrender a thousand of his kingdom’s young boys for their ruler’s army. Refusing to let his son and the others be taken, Vlad rebels but with little hope of surviving the backlash. Driven to extremes, Vlad seeks the help of a mysterious monster who holds the power that will allow Vlad to defeat his enemies. But as the story of Dracula goes, his victory will come with a price.
Firstly, I’d like to say something that I’m very glad to say- this film is no I, Frankenstein. On one hand, that’s hardly a compliment since I, Frankenstein is so truly awful. But seeing as how they didn’t attempt anything original in that, they could have just as easily done that here. But they didn’t. Debut director Gary Shore tries his hand at a project that is indefinitely rushed in its final project, but better that than the alternative in this specific sub-genre of supernatural-period films; having it drag.
Lead Luke Evans seems comfortable enough in the role of Vlad. His stoic demeanor with hints of playfulness at his newfound vampiric abilities are some of the most enjoyable scenes of the film and hint at Universal’s influence by the nonstop flow of comic book movies we see every year. Evans’ heavy handed looks and sighs befit the character that seems to have the weight of the world on him, but without boring the living crap out of us. In a film like this, pretending to be more than what the actual filmmakers are allowed to make and what their benefactors force them to do, a dragging pace is the ultimate crime.
But the movie can possibly be summed up with the cast of supporting characters. They have names and hint at each having their own backstories; but we never have time to learn them before they die quick, uneventful deaths and the film keeps moving, giving us the impression they didn’t matter that much in the first place. It’s true that a lot of people die in this movie, but there aren’t really any for us to feel. Still, there’s enough here that seeing this isn’t a waste of time, though it’s certainly not for everybody.
And let me remind you again, that it’s not I, Frankenstein.
Positives: Luke Evans is good, vampire abilities are nicely displayed, a quick story that gets you in and out.
Negatives: The same pacing could be considered rushing a story that has more depth than the pacing allows, yet we’re still rushed through the same old cliches of these epic dramas. Love, Death, blah blah blah.