Dracula Untold – 2 out of 5
Dracula gets the superhero treatment in the start of Universal’s new monsters shared universe. But the question needs to be asked…can one of the greatest villains and monsters from cinema’s history work as an anti-hero? The answer…kinda.
|Never thought Dracula could be so sexy. Everybody else is getting that feeling too, right?|
Or did I just learned something about myself I never knew?
The infamous Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) is sickened by his violent past and is trying to rule his kingdom in peace with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson). However, trouble soon comes to Transylvania when some Ottoman Empire emissaries go missing due to a vampire hidden outside the realm. Vlad is blamed for the deaths and the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) demands tribute in the form of 1,000 boys for his army. Initially, Vlad seems like he’s going to deal but when his son is going to be one of the tributes, he seeks power from the vampire hidden in his lands. The vampire (Charles Dance) grants him his power by having Vlad drink his blood but he warns the power-hungry ruler; if he feeds on human blood before three days, the curse of the vampire will stay with him for all eternity. For the love of his kingdom and his family, Vlad agrees and sets forth to stop the coming war. However, Vlad soon learns he may not be strong enough to ignore his hunger…
|Hunger for DEATH! And human blood. Death and human blood.|
I’m not really a fan of vampires and didn’t really have much in the form of excitement for this film. However, when I heard that Universal decided to have this one be the beginning of its rebooted shared universe for its iconic monsters, I admit that I was a little more interested. However, ultimately, I don’t think this was a good start to this universe because Dracula Untold was a little silly…now, if only they made Blacula Untold. Now that would be something.
|If making a deal with a spawn of Satan will get Blacula Untold off the ground, I'm prepared|
to make that sacrifice.
Honestly, Dracula Untold has some promise but the story is pretty messy and the action is ridiculous. While the story, on paper, works and it easily makes the usual villain sympathetic because he took dark power in order to protect his family and his people, the end result and the plot played out poorly. Vampires are sold as a mystery and Vlad learns of them through a monk in the story but, as the plot unfolds, it seems everyone knows about them…including Mehmed, who somehow learns his weaknesses. When the credits hit, I found myself saying, "So, vamps weren’t really that mysterious after all because it seemed like everyone really knew about them. It was Vlad who seem to be in the dark." In the end, though, the story is somewhat functional.
|Have another close-up of Luke Evans.|
The real parts that hurt the film were action sequences that were forgettable or just plain ridiculous. The first moments when Vlad learns his powers and takes out the first army (all by himself…and his people never question this until a holy man later says, "Wait, guys! I think something is wrong here."), the resulting battle is dark, cluttered and confusing. It even ends with a POV shot of a man dying and seeing all the carnage play out from the reflection of the sword Vlad impaled in his chest. That part was really hard not to laugh at.
|Yep, this is in no way terrible to look at and try and figure out what the hell is happening.|
The next problem that occurs with these battle sequences is they made Vlad way, WAY, too powerful! The second time he takes on Mehmed’s army (who decide to blindfold themselves because, as their logic dictates, "You can’t fear what you can’t see" but, and here’s my logic, wouldn’t that make what the hell is happening to you even that much more frightening?), during this battle, Vlad is utterly decimating this army using his…um…bat cloud manifestation powers (having that ability might have made Twilight a little more interesting).
|"You guys hear that? It sounds like people in the front are yelling, 'What's happening to|
me? Something bad is happening and it's killing me. If it wasn't for this infernal
blindfold, I would be able to witness the creature that is ripping me apart.'"
|"That was the warm up army...now let's kill the main event|
Seriously, he is laying waste to these guys and isn’t even breaking a sweat—fuck, he’s not even on the battlefield but off to the side with his family. During the battle, his family gets attacked and Vlad can’t save them—this, obviously, is expected because you need Dracula to fall somehow or else how would you get Dracula? However, there was absolutely no way I could buy that Vlad couldn’t save them. After witnessing him twice fuck up an entire legion of faceless body-bag fillers, was I really suppose to believe that this character that seems to have absolutely no limit on his powers wasn’t able to save the one thing that means the most to him?
|Well...she was kinda naggy at one point. Maybe he failed on purpose?|
While the visuals of a giant hand made of bats being commanded by Vlad looks cool and seeing him Storm-it-up and somehow control clouds and lightning too (another power I never knew vampires had hiding in them) may make for cool visuals that work for trailers, it made it impossible to really care about the character because you wondered if he didn’t just intentionally let his family meet doom face-to-face. Vlad learns his new powers ridiculously quickly and you’re asking me to believe that all the power he has been flaunting somehow comes up short when one person’s life is on the line? Sorry, I didn’t buy that.
|So...he couldn't just command those bats to rescue his family? Or are the only commands|
the bats respond to are ones that involve murder?
I’m not trying to say that Dracula Untold is a waste of time because it does have some working elements. Luke Evans is fantastic as Vlad and I would love to see him come back for another tale of Dracula or even pal it up with the Mummy and the Wolfman. Charles Dance is also incredibly creepy as the Master Vampire that changes Vlad. Additionally, the film has some killer special effects and the visuals, as I mentioned, look fantastic. However, this proved to be the only real strong points I dug in the film because the supporting cast isn’t particularly memorable and Dominic Cooper was a poor, poor choice as Mehmed.
|"Danger is coming...I sensed it with my guyliner."|
I like Dominic Cooper a lot as Howard Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and on Agent Carter but sometimes he proves to be the wrong man for the role. Cooper sometimes gets too cheesy for the role he’s performing (like in Need for Speed…although, he is nowhere near the worst thing in that film) but, in the case of Mehmed, he’s just so superfluous. Mehmed never really feels like a threat and when he does have a scene, Cooper’s performance feels wooden. If the script was a little tighter and Mehmed was actually shown to be something to be feared, a wooden performance from Cooper might have been passable but, with Mehmed written as he is in the final product, the character probably could have been played by a chair and you never would have noticed.
|Forget bad casting choices, this image is so badass I want it airbrushed on the side of a van!|
Dracula Untold is a weak starting point for the shared universe for Universal’s monsters—hell, even if it wasn’t a universe sharing starting point, the film is a weak outing for Dracula. The movie has its elements that work but the end product just felt too silly. However, it could have been infinity worse…originally, Sam Worthington was cast as Dracula. *Shudder*