Once held for ransom by the Turkish, Dracula, the next in line to rule Transylvania, went on to become they’re greatest and most brutal warrior. Now Ruler of Transylvania, Dracula faces that same Turkish army with nowhere near the manpower or resources to fend them off. To save his land and family from a terrible fate, Dracula must make a pact with a creature of darkness and gain the strength to defend his people.
You could be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much left to mine from Bram Stoker’s iconic tale of vampirism, because you might actually be right, but that’s not to say that previous ideas can’t be elaborated on somewhat.
If you cast your minds back, those of you who are old enough to remember it that is, to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 retelling of Dracula, you might remember the film opened, rather theatrically, with the origin of the famous fanged one amidst medieval wars.
Twenty-some years later and Universal have decided to capitalise on this snippet by making a Dracula flick that is not a horror or gothic romance, but a full-on dark ages war film. And why not? From an aesthetic view point at the very least it could prove an interesting take.
And prove it does, Dracula Untold is a rich, dark and original looking variation on a character we have uncounted hundreds of times; no small feat for a director (Gary Shore) who has nothing else beside one short film to his credit on IMDB, and might well be one worth of keeping an eye on.
Taking the underdog war story, a few verses a massive invading force, we are introduced to a tale in which a classic villain is writ as a hero to his people, sacrificing everything to gain the power to protect them. With this there are myriad examples of stylised battle sequences that are actually quite original, a man commanding thousands of bats against enemy armadas, vampires Vs. Turkish soldiers, Dracula Vs. entire battalions, which at times verge on the truly badass… Unfortunately those bits featured prominently on the excellent trailer, which is doubly bad news being that these are the best parts of the film.
From a narrative point of view, Dracula Untold would be best described as rather hollow, giving time to instances of character but being much too formulaic with it, the effect being that you probably won’t give two hoots about a single character in the piece, add to that a relatively thin plot and you’re left with a film that is totally reliant on those visuals, which though impressive just aren’t enough to carry the film.
The performances range from standard to decent, Luke Evans cutting a fine figure in his cool armour as the titular nosferatu, while Charles Dance hams it up and stands out admirably as the chilling dark creature that births him.
Certainly a more impressive film than the other re-imagined creature feature of the year, I, Frankenstein, Dracula Untold is a valiant effort that fans of gothic imagery and old timey war might get a few deserved kicks out of, but in too many respects it is noticeably light-weight.