It seems Twilight’s determination to bury all things Vampire for a while has come to an end with Dracula Untold taking a Batman Begins mentality towards the king of all bloodsuckers. But with Universal looking to go down a seemingly Marvel’s Avengers route of uniting all its classic monsters; Frankenstein’s beast, The Wolfman, The Mummy etc, into one Monster Mash does Dracula Untold resurrect the old franchises from the coffin or stake it firmly in the heart?
Combing a bit of history of Vlad The Impaler and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Untold sees Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) desperate to protect his people and kingdom from the invading Turks. But when former Turkish ally Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) insists Vlad donate his only son to his army he is left with no choice but to take extreme measures. Venturing into a deadly cave he confronts a dark evil (in the form of a typically boo-hiss Charles Dance) who bestows unto him great powers but a thirst for human blood. And so begins a war within Vlad to resist his blood lust and remain true to his son and wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon).
You know you’re in trouble watching a Dracula movie when you find yourself yearning for Francis Ford Coppola’s overly theatrical Bram Stocker’s Dracula. Because at least that film stuck closely to the source material and painted Vlad to be something more engaging than a clichéd, stereotypical hero. Untold doesn’t so much destroy the Dracula mythology but it bends it to suit its need to such a degree you’re left wondering what the point of it all was.
It looks visually stunning, a cross between romantic gothic and Peter Jackson’s sprawling vistas of Middle Earth. But everything else feels bland. The action sequences are overly CGI-ed, making Dracula’s powers seem gimmicky rather than exciting. And as if to really top things off the filmmakers, presumably under the instruction to obtain a lower ratings certificate, refuse to allow any real blood spillage, in a film about Dracula. Narratively Untold is desperate to tap into the current zeitgeist of superhero genre. But it doesn’t work on either a villain rising to power level or a superhero origin story.
Dracula is either a tragic figure, a man yearning for love in a world of total darkness, or a seductive villain, luring mere mortals to their doom for eternal damnation. But it’s only at the end of Untold that he even remotely begins to tap into either character type.
Evans does his best to instill some kind of humanity in Vlad but the dialogue is too hammy to allow for anything other than an over sincere and wooden performance. Gadon is asked to do little more than be a porcelain doll with which to gaze longingly at Evans and Dominic Cooper’s fleeting performance is so boringly pantomime villain you wonder why he agreed to show up.
A lackluster origin story of one of the greatest monsters ever created, Dracula Untold doesn’t drain blood but just plain sucks.