The history of the well-known vampire character from Bram Stoker.
The not-so-strong selling point of Dracula Untold, the origin story of Bram Stoker’s well-known horror invention that no one was exactly asking for, is a friendlier, softer, and much hunkier vampire. Universal Pictures is obviously trying to revive a character with whom they’ve had a long-standing relationship for about 83 years, but this fantasy-feeling effort manages to scare audiences only occasionally, instead relying mainly on the charismatic presence of Welsh actor Luke Evans (Fast and Furious 6) to ground the sluggish proceedings. Fans of the genre will undoubtedly be put off by the movie’s PG-13 demureness and seeming lack of blood.
The drama, which is set in 15th-century Transylvania, opens with Prince Vlad of Wallachia (Evans) presiding over his country in a kind manner. It appears that he has given up impaling in favour of a pleasant domestic life with his lovely wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and gorgeous son Ingeras (Art Parkinson, familiar with the milieu from his role in Game of Throne.
Sadly, Vlad is forced into action when the wicked Ottoman emperor Mehmed (a grim Dominic Cooper) asks that 1,000 of Wallachia’s young lads, including Vlad’s son, be drafted into his army. Vlad travels to Broken Tooth Mountain in his desperation to defeat the Turks (cue the inevitable ride at Universal Studios’ theme park), where he meets a grotesque vampire (Charles Dance, the most recent in a long line of eminent British actors seeking to lower their high tax bills) who immediately converts him. Despite being endowed with superhuman abilities, Vlad at least has a safety net: if he manages to save his people while resisting his newfound want to consume human blood for three days, he will revert to human form.
It’s challenging because, during a pause in the action, just as Vlad is about to experience some sexual bliss, he is horrified to see blood gushing from his partner’s veins. He promptly apologises and says, “I need some air. Sorry,” in a gentlemanly manner.
Lots of CGI-enhanced, 300-style fight scenes take up a large portion of the running time of the movie, with Vlad using new friends like a large number of bats to rouse his foes. Along the journey, he discovers that he is hindered by the typical issues that vampires experience, such as an adverse response to sunlight and a dislike of silver. Mehmed takes advantage of this weakness in a pivotal sword battle by stacking the deck with tens of thousands of silver coins.
Overall cheesiness in the film
In his first feature film, director Gary Shore has no flare for the action scenes, and aesthetic choices like employing Vlad’s point of view in multiple scenes only add to the overall cheesiness. It’s difficult to think that this brave and lovable character would ever end up haunting children’s dreams for decades to come given the confused screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Even though Dance’s evil persona reappears and announces, “Let the games begin,” the coda, which is set in the present and features Vlad having a meet-cute with his allegedly reincarnated wife, is absurd, it does allow for the return of Dance’s villainous character. But like the recently released, immensely despised I, Frankenstein, this misguided project mainly signals a need to go back to the drawing board.