Dracula Untold (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

drac 75What makes this Dracula story stand out from the other vampire fables is that Vlad is actually a pretty noble fellow who makes decent, moral choices based on the good.

 

drac untold

Surprisingly, this “new angle” to the ten-thousand-times-told ancient tale could have been worse. I was pleasantly baffled when I left the theater, and even though there were a few over-dramatized, awkward moments (and super-cheesy love lines), I generally think that rookie director Gary Shore did a good job for his first big film.

Dracula Untold follows the fate of Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans), the Prince of Wallachia, a honorable man who would do anything for his family and kingdom. When his brother Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) requests one thousand more men to draft for his army, Vlad’s son Ingeras (Art Parkinson) is also expected to oblige. Guarding his only child, Vlad refuses, and therefore begins a ruthless war against the Turks. Seemingly out of solutions, he travels to the Master Vampire in the mountains (Charles Dance) to ask for help, which obviously doesn’t come without a heavy price. Vlad gets to “borrow” the devil’s strength and abilities (that come with super-sensitive senses as well as the option to change into a ton of bats and fly through the air) but has to resist the urge to drink blood for three days before he gets to return to his previous life (and basic human skills). If he gives in to his cravings, the Master Vampire will be released from the curse of darkness, which will then make Vlad defenseless to sunlight and silver forever.

What makes this Dracula story stand out from the other vampire fables is that Vlad is actually a pretty noble fellow who makes decent, moral choices based on the good. He does everything in his power to protect his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and son, who is likely to rule Wallachia in the implied sequel.

What makes it work is the superb performance by Luke Evans, which unquestionably raises the credibility of the whole story. Even though I am not a huge fan of the super-shiny, fake gold armor game; I do think Shore did a pretty amazing job with the overall scenery and effects. Some of the shots (especially the ones related to battle) were very well done, and a couple of them were even kind of innovative; for example, an epic fight scene shown via the reflection from a blade stabbed into a falling soldier’s chest, or a sword fight where Mehmed has prepared bags of silver coins hanging from the ceiling to slash as above Vlad’s head as they struggle. I was also impressed by the CGI; for example when Vlad used sunlight to fry another vampire stuck on a pole—the complete transformation was outstanding.

However, what I did have to roll my eyes over was definitely the overly sweet dialogue between Vlad and Mirena that made the story drag. If you can keep your expectations low, I would say go see it—you might be pleasantly surprised and entertained. But if you are looking for a new superhero to fit Hollywood’s constantly expanding collection, Dracula Untold will leave you disappointed. | Lea Vrábelová

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