Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon and Dominic Cooper
Directed By: Gary Shore
Running Time: 92 minutes
Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 stars
The latest movie surrounding Dracula (or Vlad the Impaler) is a story nobody asked for. The combination of historical, fictional and contemporary folly has created “Dracula Untold”. In the same vein of this summer’s “Maleficent”, albeit a lot more bloody and silly, we have yet another look at a villain turned anti-hero. In many other circumstances, the concept of retelling a story most people know is manageable, but Dracula just doesn’t seem like a fruitful tree to pick from.
“Dracula Untold” steals so many pages out of so many other movies; you could probably fill a book with the stolen pages. There are some slightly original differences from Bram Stoker’s creature. Instead of being the original vampire, Vlad (Evans) has to bargain with a different, original vampire, known as Caligula (yes, that Caligula). Vlad travels to the dark, bone covered cave where Caligula lurks to make a pact with him. Vlad will become a vampire by drinking Caligula’s dark red blood and he does so to protect his kingdom, his wife and his son from Sultan Mehmed (Cooper).
As the movie says, Dracula is given the power of a hundred men along with some other powers that don’t make a lot of sense. He’s able to command vampire bats at will and he himself is able to turn into a flurry of bats while gliding rapidly through the woods. Without breaking a sweat, he takes out an entire army of invaders mere moments after acquiring his newfound skills. With powers like this, the ultimate boss battle at the end with the mortal Mehmed feels entirely way too anti-climactic.
One of history’s greatest monster/butchers has been defanged as he’s reduced to crying, spouting righteous teachings to his son and comforting his wife, all the while yelling at his village that he’s become a vampire to protect them from the true evils of the world. Maybe in 500 years someone will have Pol Pot as the sympathetic anti-hero who just wants to live life and love. Of course if you’re not knowledgeable on Romanian history, you might not care, and that’s completely fine.
The movie is far from shy at hinting and saying that Vlad is a terrible person. He still finds time to impale people and there’s even a scene where he admits to feeling nothing as he scorched entire village and murdered thousands of innocents (it’s OK, he had his reason). The charming presence of Evans can’t save this movie’s main character because he’s flawed from the beginning. Turning the most iconic Universal monster into a man of courage and nobility with an inadequate historical backdrop is one of the worst uses of Dracula in recent memory. He would have been more entertaining as the creature of the night that falls into his old, sadistic ways with his new powers instead of becoming a fanged nobleman or blood drinking seeker of justice.
All that aside, it’s still not a very well made movie. The action sequences, while shot imaginatively, have no bite. The visuals are automatically forgettable and the budget seems to have cut some corners in the CGI department and the storytelling sector. If this does well, it’ll most likely spawn a sequel or two, and just like the “Twilight” franchise, let’s hope Blade shows up at some point to put an abrupt end to this monstrosity.