Review: DRACULA UNTOLD (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: DRACULA UNTOLD (2014)

1.5 stars
1.5 stars
Despite Luke Evans' charismatic performance, DRACULA UNTOLD is disappointingly bloodless and toothless origin story of Dracula.


From F.W. Murnau's seminal black-and-white silent classic NOSFERATU (1922) to Francis Ford Coppola's horror-fantasy epic of BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) and of course, the recent 2013 TV series of Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the title role, the long-standing tradition of Dracula story has undergone various incarnations throughout the decades. Joining the ever-growing list of Dracula-themed movies are DRACULA UNTOLD, a supposedly fascinating take of the famous vampire, which unfortunately fails to come up with a satisfying origin story.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Set in the 15th century Transylvania, Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) has been living peacefully with his family -- beautiful wife, Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and cute son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson) -- while ruling a successful tiny kingdom of Wallachia. But things change when the ruthless Turkish sultan, Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) demands that Vlad must hand over 1,000 young boys, including Vlad's own son, to be trained in the Turkish army. If Vlad refuses, he will launch a war against his kingdom. In order to retaliate against Mehmed and his massive Turkish army, Vlad made a bold decision by making a deal with an ancient vampire (Charles Dance, who lives inside the cave, and risks drinking the vampire's blood to turn himself into a superhuman.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
With the help of cinematographer John Schwartzman, commercials director-turned-feature filmmaker Gary Shore knows how to mount a series of lavish, yet beautiful-looking shots. Shore also shows his creative talent, though not much, when comes to executing action sequences. Case in point is some of Vlad's fighting moments which can only be seen through the reflection of a shiny sword. The special effects are fairly adequate, particularly during Vlad's cool transformation from a human form to a flock of bats.

As for the cast, Luke Evans has that ideal brooding charisma and solid leading-man's presence to portray his character as Prince Vlad. Veteran actor Charles Dance, in the meantime, displays a fine performance as the ancient vampire who granted Vlad his superpower.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
None that I can think of, other than fortunate enough to survive the entire movie without falling asleep so I can write this review. 

THE BAD STUFF
  
It's kind of sad that a vampire movie like DRACULA UNTOLD is treated with a watered-down PG-13 rating. Because of that, the movie is criminally bloodless and also severely lack of frightening moment. Even the movie is trying to embrace into action-fantasy territory, Gary Shore fails to satisfy much in terms of elaborating the action sequence. For instance, when Vlad single-handedly battles against the entire Turkish army, the particular scene feels rushed.

Adding further disappointment is Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless's poor screenplay. The story about the origin of Dracula is hardly compelling or darkly romantic at all, say, genre movies like BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA. Instead, the overall plot falls flat and tedious, even for a movie that runs under two hours long. At the same time, the plot is kind of insulting and laughable as well. Like for example, how is it a brilliant idea to blindfold the entire Turkish army so they wouldn't be scared when they encounter Vlad the Dracula later? If that's not bad enough, there is an epilogue set in the present day, which suggests a possible sequel in the future. After all, Universal Pictures is actually planning to do "shared monster universe" (think all the solo Marvel movies that leads to THE AVENGERS, and you'll get the idea). If that's the case, I felt the move was more of a desperate gimmick than a smart strategy, especially since DRACULA UNTOLD itself isn't much of a recommended movie to begin with.

Finally, there's the weak acting. Apart from Evans and Dance, the rest of the supporting actors -- such as Sarah Gadon's wooden performance as Vlad's wife, Mirena and Dominic Cooper's wasted role as the ruthless Sultan Mehmed -- are all forgettable.

FINAL WORDS

Just like this year's equally dismal monster movie of I, FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA UNTOLD is a missed opportunity that should have been gone back to the reset button instead.

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