Dracula Untold



If someone asked me to name what I thought was the greatest work of fiction, I think off the top of my head I would probably say it was Dracula.  Bram Stoker created one of the greatest villains that has stood the test of time, as evident by the multiple incarnations of the character.  However, I have never seen a film which I thought did complete justice to the original novel.  They have always made weird changes that I have never thought added to the story, more took away from it.  The closest probably was the 1930 universal film starring Bela Lugosi, which I still highly recommend people to have in their DVD collection.

I knew going into Dracula Untold that I wasn’t going to get the Dracula film that would satisfy me after all this time, knowing that essentially it was a prequel, but I really thought there was some possibility I was going to get an interesting look into the character, and while this film tries that, I don’t think it succeeds.

The Plot, well the plot in this film, which centres around Vlad Tempes making a deal to become a vampire in order to defeat a Turkish army and prevent his son being drafted as a child soldier is really predictable, I genuinely could tell exactly where this film was going from pretty much the start to the finish.  There was no real surprise there although the only thing that didn’t catch me off surprise was the thing that I didn’t want, which was the lack of progression.  When I was going into this film I expected to see a man slowly giving into the darkness having made a deal with the best of intentions, but by the end of the film, losing his humanity.  But this film doesn’t have that!  

Luke Evans plays the title role of Vlad, obviously being a reference to the fact that Bram Stoker was inspired to create Dracula from the real life Romanian Leader “Vlad the Impaler”.    However, while Luke Evans is trying his best, the character he starts out as is exactly the same as the character he finishes as.  If he hadn’t said anything throughout this movie, I would never have believed this was Dracula.  I was, towards the end of the film thinking how is this character going to be the same character that is at the beginning of Bram Stokers novel.  At least most prequels get that right!

The plot itself actually kind of reminded me at times of a Japanese Animated film called “Dracula Sovereign of the Dammed”, which most people reading this will probably not have seen considering the fact that, to get a copy you will probably have to pay up to £300.00.  Yes, it’s that rare!  If you’re sadistically curious enough to actually check it out, then I suggest you check out “Bennet the Sage’s” review on Blip, as you essentially get the entire plot.  Whilst Sovereign of the Dammed is similar to this films plot, luckily this films plot is not as stupid as that film.  The major similarity being, it focuses on Dracula having a family, although with this film he has a family prior to becoming a vampire, where in Sovereign of the Dammed he has a family after becoming a vampire.  The only major difference is, this film focuses much more on the family dynamic, which is pretty good when comparing the films, but when you look at the film by itself, it’s not what I really want to be seeing in one of these movies.  It’s just boring, we know what is going to happen here.  There is no way this is going to end well, stop pretending there is a way it will end well!!

The other aspect that’s similar to Sovereign of the Dammed, is the fact that Untold tries to ground Dracula in some history, not realising that Bram Stoker’s original idea was that he was simply inspired by Vlad the Impaler, not that Dracula actually ‘was’ Vlad the Impaler.  I don’t think grounding Dracula in history does much for the character.  It goes about as well as any time people try to ground Robin Hood in history.  Good try here, doesn’t really work!! 

Also Dracula kind of is the typical pretty boy vampire in this movie, but believe me it is not as bad as Edward and the other idiotic characters from Twilight, because in this film his motivations are clear and he’s actually doing things for the right reasons.  

And while I’m on it this film does mess around quite a bit with vampire law it doesn’t bother me too much but does add to the predictability of the plot, trust me you’ll see what I mean when you see it

There is one point of this plot that I do enjoy, and that is the climax.  Dear god, this was a really good climax.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that genuinely wants to go and see this movie, so take my word it makes up for a lot of the problems with the opening of the movie.  

The film’s ending also indicates a sequel that will be closer to the original novel and will probably happen, but that’s the thing, we have not seen a progression of Dracula into becoming a villain in this movie, he’s essentially a good guy from start to finish, so any sequel has to show at least some progression, because hell knows there wasn’t any in this film.  If there is a sequel I think I probably will go and see it, hell I probably will review it for this but they have to show some of the off screen progression that has happened!

Overall this plot is not going to satisfy Dracula fans and considering the title that is saying a lot!

Most of the actors do a pretty decent job, but the writers really didn’t give them much of a role in this movie.  Pretty much it all comes down to Luke Evans playing the title role and Dominic Cooper playing the villain Sultan Mehammed.  Yes, seriously, Dracula is not the villain in his own movie!  Dominic Cooper does make a decent villain, hell he’s a pretty smart tactician when he finds out that Vlad has become a vampire.  But for me the stand out performance in this movie is Charles Dance from Game of Thrones, playing the role of the Master Vampire.  The prosthetics were great and he delivers a brilliant role, it’s just too bad that he is only in the movie for 5 minutes!  Seriously they could have done a lot more with this character, he doesn’t even really have to be there, he could have been a hallucination of Vlad’s trying to egg him on to become full vampire.  He had a brilliant set up here, especially considering that the master vampire can only be free of his particular curse if Vlad becomes Dracula.

As for the rest of the actors, I will say that the child actors aren’t too bad, but they could have been a lot better, but then again I have seen a lot worse performances from these sort of films where children expected to act their behinds off!  

I saw this film in IMAX and whilst I did believe it enhanced the film in quite a lot of ways, I don’t think it’s necessary for seeing this movie, which is both a positive and a negative.  A positive in the sense of that, none of the effects are going to be reduced in quality when seen on a smaller screen on televisions when it eventually comes out on DVD, but it also means you are not getting much out of paying the extra for the IMAX, but I still recommend people check it out in this definition. 

Most of the effects were pretty decent, although the real stand outs were the ones that we’d already seen in the trailer.  The set designs were pretty decent as well, but oh my god the action scenes while pretty good most of the time the same issues that so many films the feature sword fighting and martial arts make, the camera is too close!  I want an action sequence when I can actually tell what’s going on!  This film hardly let me see anything to cover up the fact that most of the action has been done by the CGI and Special Effects Department.  But I will say that one of the things that make the climax really good for me was the special effects, and the action sequences in that latter part, and it’s absolutely killing me that I can’t describe it to avoid spoilers.  

I have been very negative, so I think I should get some positive points out for this movie.  As I have already mentioned, the climax was really good.  A couple of the actors do sort of stand out, even though they really aren’t given much to do.  Special props to Sarah Gadon who had to play Vlad’s wife Marina on that point.  I do believe the set designs were really great, given a lot of the gothic nature that a Dracula movie probably should be giving us.  

If I’m honest I wasn’t totally bored when I was watching this movie.  I just found things really weren’t what I was expecting it to be in the most negative way possible.  That’s not to say this is a horrible movie, god no, of some of the movies that have come out this year this practically is purely in the middle in terms of rankings.  I would genuinely like to see a sequel to this movie.  I think Luke Evans could make a good Dracula, I just didn’t see enough of his evil side in this movie, which in any future Dracula movies he would have to get down.  Maybe Luke Evans has played a pretty decent villain in the past, I don’t really know that much about his career.  Maybe this will open up a new avenue for his acting career.  Only time will tell, and I do intend to review the Dracula Untold Sequel if it comes out.  Be warned though, if that review does come out I will be spoiling the end of this one in that review.

To summarise Dracula Untold is a film that leaves me wanting more.  I wanted more darkness, more conflict, more of Dracula being a villain, more vampire law explored.  This film didn’t really give me enough.  It started off on a lot of routes but didn’t finish them.  I will say there are some decent action sequences there and I think the idea of turning Dracula into an action hero, while admirable, doesn’t really work.  

This film could be good for people who don’t really know that much about Dracula and just want a decent action film or a decent period action film, and hey if you like the idea of crossing Thirty Days of Night with The Lord of the Rings, you might get something out of this.  But if you really enjoy the iconic character of Dracula and his history, this film is not for you.  We will just have to keep waiting for that actual definitive version of Dracula.

If that conclusion has depressed you, don’t worry because this film is better that the majority of vampire movies that have come out in recent memory, most notably, the god awful Twilight series (and I know saying that may piss off a lot of people but I really hate those movies).  

But while this film may turn Dracula into another pretty boy vampire, there are some decent vampire fiction out there that I could recommend.  I would definitely recommend picking up Scott Snyder graphic novel series “American Vampire”.  It’s been released on several volumes and I have only just started collecting it, but it’s really great vampire fiction that really dives into the mythology and the first volume is co-written by Stephen king.  I also could recommend Thirty Days of Night which takes the idea of vampires and their hierarchy to a really interesting level, although I would definitely say read the graphic novel rather than see the movie.  The movie made a lot of changes that don’t make sense.  

If you want to see a good vampire movie, check out the Christopher Lee, or Bela Lugosi Dracula movies, or, hell in recent memory I kind of enjoyed the ‘Let Me In’ remake.  But that’s just my opinion and I know it turned up on a lot of worst movies of 2010 lists.  

If you guys think I got something about this wrong, or maybe Dracula Untold did something for you that I didn’t see.  Or maybe you want to agree with me and say that it just doesn’t quite deliver on enough levels.  Please leave something in the comment section, I definitely welcome all opinions and also give some good vampire fiction that missed.

That’s five movies down so far and now we’re moving on to Movie No 6.  Check back on the website on 29 Oct when I will be posting my review of Michael Bay’s interpretation of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. 

At the time of this review the film was showing some previews which you may have already checked out or may be about to check out, but it’s released publicly everywhere on 17 Oct.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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6 comments on “Dracula Untold
  1. David Jarvis says:

    Another extensive and interesting review to read.
    I regret to say that I haven’t seen this film either so can’t offer critique from that point of view.
    As a side note, for more comments and helpful criticism, It might be an idea, every now and then amongst the new releases, to review older films that people will have already had chance to see (if, like myself, they don’t go to the cinema that often)on DVD. Maybe some classics, or favourites of yours from the past, or, if you tend to watch certain genres more often than others, maybe some from other genres every now and then, like you did with Pride. Hopefully that would give you the most chance of frequent and varied critique. If many people reading don’t often go to the cinema then you’re limiting your source of feedback. I imagine it’s difficult though, if you’re keen to see and talk about new films.
    There’s so much content in your reviews though, that I can offer a few thoughts.
    First off, I’ve never actually read Bram Stoker’s Dracula but I’d love to, so as a result of reading your review I’ve made a note to get it from the library. I have read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein though, which I remember loving and finding quite poignant. After reading your review the other day, I realised the 1958 Hammer Horror film was on TV last night and I gave it a watch. Although it’s obviously dated, I enjoyed it and liked the simplicity of the story telling, the gothic atmosphere and the lurid crimson of the blood, which I imagine would have been quite shocking at the time. I thought Peter Cushing was an excellent Van Helsing and Christopher Lee was good. The use of the music to build the tension at the appearance of Dracula was fun to observe as well. At around only 80mins it was an entertaining way to spend the time and another thing to thank your review for.
    The film was on as part of a Gothic season of programing that the BBC are showing at the moment that looks interesting. I caught the first documentary and there were lots of references to architecture, paintings, poetry and works of fiction that were intriguing.
    I think I’ll try and check out the 1930 version you recommended at some point, maybe after reading the book. I’ve also added American Vampire and Thirty Days of Night to that list.
    Although I’ve never had a particular interest in the Dracula mythos, it’s certainly an enduring story isn’t it, and one that’s spawned so many different works.

    Regarding your point about playing around with the origins of a fictional character and trying to tie them in to history. If it’s not a character I hold a particular affection for then I quite like it when the mythos is played with as it adds some originality to a story that’s been told many times. It’s hard to do well though, as you alluded to in your review, because the original narrative has been so popular and is ingrained in the mind so you often think, why mess with it. I can see why you’d be frustrated at this film because, although you love the character and wouldn’t want to mess with it too much, you state that a definitive version of the book has yet to be made so there’s a desire to see that happen and to hold out hope.
    There seem to be quite a few origin stories in film these days. Maybe it’s because of a lack of other original ideas.

    I’m not sure I like the sound of Dracula as an action hero. As much as I like action, a lot of the appeal of Dracula seems to be in it’s connection to horror and the unknown. In the 1958 film, aside from freakish strength, he seemed to have a magnetic hold over people. I’d imagine when you start showing him fighting with swords or using martial arts you lose something of that terror. Like most monsters, the less you see the better. That seems to be something that’s missing from this film from what you say, and the more familiar Dracula I guess would be the ‘master vampire’ you mentioned. Maybe it’s a fundamental flaw with trying to show where a character like this has originated, unless it’s a particularly creepy or dramatic backstory (Freddy Kruger or Candyman spring to mind) then the less we know the more scary it is.

    As for action scenes in general, it seems like so much has been seen before and, unless it’s particularly realistic or impressive, I have to admit to switching off when watching a lot of them. I think good, realistic action scenes are very hard to pull off and require extensive training for the actors, especially if using weapons. Maybe they try to cut corners with some of the frenetic editing. I, too, find that irritating. Although it might create a sense of the frenzy, I’d prefer to see what’s happening.

    The trailer for this film looked impressive (although I’m not sure about the ‘Lorde’ cover) but, like action scenes, I have to admit to feeling a bit numb towards a lot of the CGI content in films these days. Do you think it enhanced the film? Maybe it was well done in the final scene you alluded to.

    Finally, regarding other works in the genre that I’ve enjoyed, I haven’t seen many but I remember enjoying The Lost Boys, and Near Dark. More recently I really liked the original ‘Let the right one in’. I haven’t seen the remake you mentioned but I found the original an atmospheric, haunting and quite touching love story of sorts. The music is amazing too.

    • Calvin Atkinson says:

      hey david

      thanks for you’re comments they were very insightful and i found myself really agreeing with you.

      as for the reasons i review films in the cinema rather than older dvd’s it’s simply because i want to keep up with current film industry and don’t want to be swayed by a consensus of a film’s reputation as well as the fact that i’m hopping to convince people to go to the cinema to see films (especially good films) and/or influcence future dvd purchaces. but i’m hearing that point and am planning to rectify it in some way next year i’m already planning to review some direct to dvd films as they come out along side cinema releases but i’m also considering doing a set of dvd recommendations under certain categories (example being 10 sci-fi dvds to pick up) but i also will consider doing some spotlights on my favourite and least favourite films

      i’m glad to see you going out to get my recommendations and you’re comments on the 1958 Dracula film were absolutely on the money it truly is a horror classic for a reason and i’m gonna check out this gothic programming on the BBC

      i also believe you’re right about revised origin stories being used because of a lack of ideas and believe me that point will more than likely turn up for future reviews

      you also hit on a point i missed from the review about the origin story taking away from the fear and the less you know the better so thanks for helping me get that on the record

      as for the CGI trust me it did not add to the film more took away from it i’m hoping on all the points that were raised will be fixed in the future universal monster movies planned

      i’ll check out Lost boys and Near Dark More when i get the chance because i haven’t seen either film and wanna know how good they are

      • David Jarvis says:

        Hey Calvin,
        Glad you found the comments helpful.
        I totally understand your reasons for reviewing current releases and I find your desire not to be swayed by the consensus an admirable one. I’m often influenced by reviews as to which films I see, or I’ll read a review after seeing a film and it might change my mind a little. On the other hand, sometimes a good review can shed some light on details and a film that was puzzling before can have new meaning.
        I was just aware of the effort you’re putting in and your desire for people to comment and was thinking of ways to for more people to do so.

  2. Carly Swann says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment – they are always gratefully received!

    I personally agree with you that there should be reviews of older films as I don’t go to the cinema very often either!

    I’m not sure what type of film you would like to review but please feel welcome to review one and I can add this to our list of reviews if you would like?

    • David Jarvis says:

      Hi Carly,

      Yeah, I used to go quite a lot but I tend to only go occasionally these days. If I go, I’ll sometimes get irritated if other viewers are using their phones or making noise. I’ll sometimes go over and ask them to stop, but whether I do or not, it tends to play on my mind a bit. At least at home you can control the environment and pause and rewind if you miss something. There is a magic about the cinema that you can’t replace though. I’ve found one way to avoid irritation for a popular film is to go to the preview screenings, or book for one of the first nights it’s out, then you can usually be sure you’re watching it with those who really want to see it and you can get the best atmosphere.
      There’s one called Interstellar coming out soon that I might go and see.

      Thanks for the offer regarding doing a review. I’ll have a think about that. Leaving the comments has been a good focus for my mind.

  3. Calvin says:

    Been reading more of American Vampire. got to volume 5 and i’m telling you they do Dracula a lot better in that series than this movie

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