Review: Dracula Untold

This Dracula reboot lacks any real bite. reviews

draculauntoldRating: ★★☆☆☆

Did you know that, according to Wikipedia, there have been over 200 films where Dracula appears in some capacity? In fact, I heard someone wrote a book about him once. Surely that means there’s not much of Dracula left to tell at this point? We could have called this Dracula: Told, but then again I might use that for the name of my Van Helsing rap album.

So who asked for this? Who was crying out for another Dracula movie? Doesn’t matter – here he is again, with all the vim and vigour of a pig turning slowly on a spit, and this time it’s an origin story! Time to delve into the Count’s miserable little pile of secrets. But enough talk! Have at it!

Plot goes thus: we’re in Transylvania in the 1400s (seriously, check your window), where the infamous Vlad the Impaler rules, trying hard to cast off his dark-if-badass past as a soldier and live as Vlad the Actually Quite Nice Bloke. Think Wolverine, played by Edward Cullen. But the Ottoman Empire has him by the throat, and when they turn up in his kingdom demanding a thousand children for their army there’s not all that much he can do. Unless he makes a Faustian bargain with that vampire living on the spooky mountain – he’ll become a vampire himself for three days, but if he drinks blood he’s stuck as one forever…

The movie gets about as close to horror as a woman might to the man in the unwashed My Little Pony shirt. There’s barely any blood, and they seem to have hired particularly-squeamish cameramen, who swiftly avert their eyes whenever a vampire so much as steps up behind someone.

Dracula himself’s pretty much a superhero who happens to be called “Vlad Tepes” – characters frantically whisper about the “inhuman monster” who lost his soul even as he swoops down to save children from villainous vampire attacks. And that’s entirely on purpose – sure, the movie opens with a few thousand soldiers impaled on spikes, but that was just to stop any resistance and make sure no-one else got killed. Really!

(It’s also worth noting that that scene comes right at the end of the film, so Vladula’s character doesn’t budge an inch throughout. I guess you really can’t get rid of Vlad culture.)

No, what we get here, you see, is dark fantasy, much like Maleficent earlier this year and a whole corpus of films before that. Lots of panning helicopter shots of a field in New Zealand, then a mountain. Half the film drowned in passable CGI (let’s face it – in this day and age, with a $130 million budget, you’d have to actively try to mess that up). Importantly, everything’s Very Very Serious – I counted exactly one joke in the entire film.

Lots of CGI fights, lots of CGI in the dark, things happen to characters I didn’t care about and had to look up the names of afterwards (although Charles Dance as the mountain vampire’s as great as it sounds, and Luke Evans’ performance as Vladula flickers, at least) and then it all ends in the modern day.

That’s why this movie got made – those two little words that make blockbuster executives start spontaneously jizzing money. “Cinematic Universe”. After this comes a Mummy film and then The Wolfman and then maybe ET or something, and then they all team up in the present and fight evil (played by Charles Dance).

Will it happen? Well, the producer of Dracula Untold’s already talking about rebooting the Dracula franchise, so I’ll leave that there. As for this, it isn’t a movie with any real bite. In fact, I’d say it kinda sucks.

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