In 1922 F.W. Murnau brought one of the very first recognized adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula to the screen with the silent film Nosferatu.
In the nearly 100 years since his first movie appearance, Dracula has been rumored to have been portrayed on screen over 270 times. One would think that we know this “creature of the night” fairly well by now.
Can Dracula Untold tell movie goers anything that they don’t yet know?
Vlad Tepes, his family, and his kingdom’s inhabitants have enjoyed 10 years of peaceful existence, but it is discovered that Turkish scouts have crossed their borders. This could be seen as an act of impending war against Vlad’s kingdom and its people.
Vlad goes to Broken Tooth Mountain to investigate the intentions of the scouts only to find that they might well have fallen victim to another sinister threat presenting itself within the borders of his kingdom.
With the threat of war with the Turks being a distinct possibility, he withholds the news of the creature he discovers within the mountain. An emissary to Mehmed II, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, arrives during the Easter celebration in Vlad’s kingdom to receive their tribute to The Sultan.
During this visit, the emissary informs Vlad that his subjects are mandated to provide 1,000 male children for Mehmed’s army and Vlad’s son is in no way exempt. Vlad protests the revival of this barbaric custom, which he was once forced to endure himself as a child.
With the threat of war lingering over his kingdom, should he refuse to comply, he seeks to gain the power he requires to protect everything he holds most dear. To do so, he must make an unholy bargain with the malevolent creature he discovered on the mountain.
It becomes clear to Vlad that the key to providing his kingdom’s salvation may come at the cost of his own damnation. Luke Evans, in the role of Vlad, goes not quite so boldly where others have more artfully gone before.
Despite being handsome and dashing, the character is bereft of any truly emotional appeal, and can be unconvincingly brooding. While struggling to keep his thirst for blood at bay, he fails to convey a true struggle between his humanity and the beast lurking within.
Most of the performances given were overly melodramatic and in many ways resembled stage acting, thus lacking the necessary subtle nuances of acting for the screen. Even Dominic Cooper, in the role of Mehmed II, was forgettable due to the fact that he didn’t even have enough screen time to properly develop or breathe life into his character.
A keen lack in the development of ANY characters, either main or supporting, made it difficult to sympathize with…well, anyone. Only Charles Dance, who played The Master Vampire, displayed any semblance of decent acting in his limited screen time.
Dracula Untold is Gary Shore’s first foray into directing for the big screen. So far I’d have to say he’s off to a disappointing start. He was brought in on the strength of an incredibly slick and stylish two and a half minute faux movie trailer he created called The Cup of Tears.
Maybe if Dracula Untold were merely as long as its trailer it would seem more impressive than it was over the space of an hour and a half. As it stands, an hour and a half is not nearly enough time to tell this story in proper detail.
The film does possess a bleak and murky atmospheric quality, with many scenes bathed primarily in cold blue and grey tones. And the visual effects, for the most part, do reflect the dark and vicious nature of the power bestowed upon Vlad.
HOWEVER, the battle scenes were far too chaotic, unimpressive, and not nearly stylized enough. Shore would have been better served to take a look at battle sequences in recent movies that occurred at skirmish level when choreographing and shooting his.
The story suffered greatly from glaring inaccuracies about the actual Vlad Tepes. He was born in 1431, had a wife and two sons, although he was born in Transylvania he RULED over WALLACHIA. Is there really any reason they couldn’t have built a fantastic story around the true historic elements?
He would have only been 11 years old at the time that the story takes place in the movie and Mehmed only 10. They don’t have to tell the exact biographical story, but incorporating its elements into the mythology would have been nice.
It would have lent credence and realism to the mythos behind this legendary character.
In the end this is a very unnecessary and misguided attempt at showing the origin for one of the most beloved and legendary characters in all of literary and movie history. A weak script and a director that is more focused on the visual aspects than dramatic appeal are likely what have ultimately failed this movie.
Hopefully my suspicions of a possible series of these films won’t be realized and this particular incarnation of Dracula will be allowed to die and rest in peace.
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