Dracula Untold (2014)

Dracula UntoldA review by Nalini Haynes

Director: Gary Shore
Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Bram Stoker
Stars: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance, Art Parkinson
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars

In a world of reboots, relaunches and re-imaginings, Dracula Untold is an interesting prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Opening before Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, becomes the dark lord, Dracula Untold seeks to make Vlad Dracul a tragic hero, motivated by love for his people, his wife and his son.

Vlad (Luke Evans) was once hostage to the Turkish king like Theon Greyjoy was a hostage to the Starks to ensure his father’s good conduct. Vlad was trained to fight and lead others, always at the behest of his evil Turkish overlord.

In other words, the ‘white’ Transylvanian lord was a victim of the Muslim people. Queue rant against racism. With Western countries invading the Middle East once more, I guess we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of motivation in movies over the next few years, making the invasion more palatable, leaving the masses docile after bread and circuses.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie. The underlying dogma just makes me want to scream.

Onward!

Vlad and a hunting party discover armor, remains of Turkish scouts. Concerned about the ramifications of the Turks’ demise, Vlad investigates Broken Tooth Mountain, a place feared by all. Bats emerge during daylight because they’ve been frightened (an inconsistency in the story that isn’t justified). Brave men go where bats fear to linger. Monster. Vlad runs away.

Turkish prince Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) comes to Vlad’s royal court to collect the taxes the Turks impose on Transylvanians. The silver isn’t enough; the Turks want 1000 boys to serve and die in their army and one more boy, Vlad’s son (Art Parkinson), to act as hostage.

Mehmed talks of a darkness within Vlad. This, too, seems odd.

Vlad is not a happy camper. Vlad goes back to Broken Tooth Mountain to seek power from the monster in the hopes that he will be able to protect his people in the coming war.

Fight scenes. Pretty armor. Bodies on spears because, hey, Vlad THE IMPALER.

It’s not overly gory, however. Dracula Untold could have been a slasher-type or a sinister-stalkery-type movie but it avoided that in favour of saying ‘here’s this old story, we’ll retell it making Dracula a tragic hero’.

To me Luke Evans was a new face. I’ve managed to not see him in any of his previous roles (unless he was in that bit of the Hobbit 1 before I fell asleep). I liked him as Dracula, partly because he was a fairly fresh face.

Likewise Sarah Gadon was a fairly new face as I either hadn’t seen her in any previous roles or I just didn’t remember her. She wasn’t particularly memorable in Dracula Untold, either, but that was at least partly due to the script. Mirena, Vlad’s wife, is in love with her husband but she’s also naggy, whiney and weak with no political acumen. Also, Smurfette. I’m pretty sure she’s the only named female character in the whole movie.

Art Parkinson is Vlad’s son. Rickon Stark from Game of Thrones can do no wrong.

Master Vampire Charles Dance was his usual impeccable villainous self. Whenever I’ve seen him, Dance has played villains that I love to hate. Tywin Lannister will probably be the role for which Charles Dances will be best remembered, but his master vampire alone makes watching Dracula Untold worthwhile.

The ending makes it highly likely that there’ll be a sequel. I’d have to watch it through a second time to be sure but I think the closing scene causes inconsistencies or a plot hole. Having said that, if there is a sequel, it’d have to feature Charles Dance. I could possibly watch that. Or anything else with Charles Dance as a villain.

Dracula Untold is much darker than Joss Whedon’s Angel and Buffy; it’s more along the lines of Underworld 1 and 2 but not as creepy as some other Dracula movies. There are some plot holes and inconsistencies but, compared to a lot of other movies, Dracula Untold holds together fairly well. The action, costumes and special effects are fabulous. Dracula Untold is an enjoyable fantasy movie prequel for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

IMAX Melbourne is showing Dracula Untold in 2D on the enormous screen, which always makes the visual so. much. better. There’s a trailer at the IMAX link.