I admit that I was dreading this one. Hollywood and company have pretty much milked the essence of the vampire film to death at this point. Drained it of all the vital fluids it once possessed. Left it as a barren husk, a shadow of its former self… you get the idea. After the advent of the sparkly vampire, well, I was quite ready to be done with this particular form of monster.
Color me surprised to have to admit that this film was pretty decent. Nothing groundbreaking or original, but good popcorn fare (preferably with white cheddar flavoring). It paid tribute to the original Dracula and gave him a solid character arc. It clashed with what I understand of the actual historical figure, Vlad of Tepes, but liberties must be taken when depicting a man famous for making human shish kabobs. The movie also suffers from a serious lack of memorable characters (besides Dracula), but it doesn’t let the focus shift away from him so that weakness is somewhat forgivable. If you want to see a film where a vampire runs around killing Ottoman soldiers you could do worse than Dracula Untold, though in my opinion this film would have benefited from an R Rating so they could show proper violence.
That concludes the portion of the review that can be considered spoiler free. From here on out, I won’t be rushing to guard my thoughts on specific scenes. That being said, there’s really not a lot to spoil.
The trailer pretty much established everything that goes down: the Ottoman Empire was a bunch of jerks, they demand child soldiers, including Vlad’s son, Vlad kills some guys, then has to go become a vampire to have a chance at surviving a ludicrous amount of enemy soldiers. The only real twist is the fact that he’s given a three day window in which, should he resist the urge to drink blood the curse will be lifted and he won’t become the monster everyone knows and loves. Not that we believe for an instant that things will play out that way, it’s just a nice little piece that establishes some stakes throughout the adventure.
Frankly this movie had a shot at being a lot better than it was. For every favorable thing I have to say about it there’s something to hold it back. Most of the battles are fun but the first one abuses shaky cam to the point where I had to look away several times. Dracula himself is a broody anti-hero who I tend to like, but every other character is boring and forgettable, even the woman he’s madly in love with. The Master Vampire is an impressively intimidating monster, a perfect example of ancient power to be feared, but he talks far too much, spoiling a fair amount of his fear factor.
Nowhere does the film show its weakness more than with the antagonists in the film. They embody the mustache twirling villain of old, with no character or desires beyond evil for evil’s sake. Most troublesome is Sultan Mehmed (whose name I had to look up because I didn’t care enough while he was on screen to remember his name). Judging from the dialogue we get between him and Vlad early in the film, they grew up together, fought numerous battles together, and outright considered each other brothers (not that they share even the barest examples of history beyond saying that they have it). No real reason for his desire for 1,000 children to turn into soldiers is given beyond him wanting more troops. Even then it doesn’t truly feel like he wants them to aid in further conquest, he just… wants them. In an action movie a hero is defined by the villain he faces and Dracula’s villain is, at his most aggressive, still just a chump.
All my griping aside, I still say it’s a serviceable film, provided you’re looking to flip your brain off for a couple of hours. If however you want more dramatic fare there’s better stuff out there right now. For pure junk food film, this one hits the mark quite nicely. The PG-13 rating does detract from the mystique of the vampire mythology a bit, but it also makes things somewhat more tolerable if you want to bring your (teenage) kids along.
Well, we’ve got a new crop of movies out this week as well as plenty of old ones to pick from too. So cast your vote below! Comment on the FOX 28 Facebook (facebook.com/fox28spokane) if you have other movie suggestions.