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.
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