Is there really anything about Dracula that hasn’t already been told before? Apparently there is, according to Universal Pictures with the release of Dracula Untold, giving us the origin story (again!) behind fiction’s most famous vampire.
Back in the Middle Ages Vlad (Luke Evans), the Prince of Transylvania comes into conflict with the villainous Sultan of Turkey (Dominic Cooper) when the Sultan demand 1000 boys to join his army, including Vlad’s son. To stop this from happening Vlad seeks out a monster (Charles Dance) he knows is hidden in the caves. The monster offers Vlad the power to stop the Sultan, but the price is a thirst for human blood.
It’s an odd film to review in a way, because as soon as it finished I didn’t know quite what I thought of it. It wasn’t bad but not a conventual good one either. Elements of the film works but it seemed uncertain what type of movie it wants to be. I think I expected the film to be much darker and gorier than what it was. It also felt as though the cast were all acting in different movies. Evans playing it straight and brooding, Charles Dance and Paul Kaye (as Brother Lucian) seem to have walked in from a Hammer Horror movie, while Vlad’s wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) has wondered in from some sort of historical romance. Not that necessarily anyone is bad in their roles but it’s a bit jarring when the cast seem to be reading from different scripts. It also takes a while for the film to find its teeth (sorry). Part of me wonders if this movie was on tv or dvd I’d be more forgiving of its flaws.
Its less a case of Dracula Untold but rather Dracula Retold-but slightly differently. Most of us have heard some of the stories of Vlad the Impaler (the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Here the film puts Vlad in a more heroic role-because nothing screams good guy more than someone whose early years included impaling people! Although it’s a dubious retelling of history, Vlad is actually a pretty likeable and sympathetic guy, someone who is trying to save his family and his kingdom no matter the price he must pay. Evans is good in his first leading man role, convincing as family man, Prince, warrior and, of course, vampire. His scenes with his son Ingerus (Art Parkingson) are surprisingly good and they have an emotional impact that the film really needs.
The film finds its feet more as it goes along, with some good special effects thrown in. Vlad transforming into bats is particularly effective. However there are several glaring mistakes where Vlad is standing in direct sunlight without bursting into flame. Some of the fight scenes are also a bit underwhelming, as Vlad is moving so fast you don’t really get much time to look at what he’s doing, especially as the camera starts going all skakey when the action starts.
Universal have intended this film to be the first of several reboots of the Universal Monsters franchise, and a sequel to Dracula Untold is teased at the ending. With the tantalising end scenes I was surprised to find myself actually interested in a further Dracula movie.
Rating 3/5 – uneven but interesting version of everyone’s favourite vampire with a good central performance from Luke Evans