Director: Gary Shore
Writer: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Based on: Bram Stoker‘s novel (in the loosest sense of “based”)
Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Thor Kristjansson
When Vlad (Luke Evans) was a child he was enslaved by the Turks, despite being a prince, to ensure his father’s allegiance. He was raised to be a soldier and became such a good one that people nicknamed him The Impaler and he is finally allowed to return home. But when the Turks call for slave soldiers again, Vlad cannot consent – which means war. To be able to defend his family and his country better, Vlad makes a deal with a monster (Charles Dance) in a cave: for three days he will have the strength and abilities of a vampire while still alive. If he can resist the temptation to drink human blood in that time, he’ll even return to being human. But will three days be enough to defet the Turks?
I know going in that Dracula Untold was going to be the kind of film where I’d need vodka, so I wisely packed it. Rarely have I been so glad about my foresight because I needed every damn drop of it. In short, the film was really, really bad.
Before I saw the film, Maynard warned me that it was barely a vampire film at all, which is an entirely accurate description. If Vlad had sold his soul to the devil, had superpowers after a nuclear incident or had some alien technology, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference to the story. That’s not how you make a monster film. Monsters always represent some aspect of humanity, purified and heightened, and you have to explore that aspect with the monster you feature. Dracula Untold will have none of that.
Instead it shows battle scene after battle scene, which additionally sapped most of the remaining possible enjoyment out of the story to boot. I mean, I, Frankenstein was no cinematic masterpiece (and it didn’t concern itself much with the monsteriness of its protagonist either), but at least I laughed there. With Dracula Untold, the boredom outweighed the laughs – even though there were some fantastically bad things (like the literally blindfolded Turkish army – because you can’t fear something you don’t see).
The film actually has some good moments. When Vald transforms into a storm of bats, at least the film looked really cool. Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon and Charles Dance give solid performances, Thor Kristjansson is perfect eye-candy and Dominic Cooper hams it up – and is wonderful, as usual, when he does that (he’s also wonderful when he doesn’t ham it up, btw).
Apart from its lacking entertainment factor, I was also extremely uncomfortable with the film’s depiction of the Turks – especially watching it in Austria, where most of the current racism is levelled against Turkish people (and Eastern Europeans. And Roma. And black people. Look, we have a lot of racism, there’s enough for everybody). They were barely human in their evil lust for boy soldiers. A little more subtlety, especially in Dominic Cooper’s character would have gone a long way. But that was obviously quite beyond the means of the filmmakers. As were so many things.