Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review of DRACULA UNTOLD: Alternate Origin

October 18, 2014

This origin story of Dracula is not the classic Bram Stoker version we all know. That one had already been translated into numerous film versions since 1931, capped by the elegant and definitive 1992 film by Francis Ford Coppola starring Gary Oldman.

This re-imagined origin of the blood-sucking vampire Dracula is based on a real historical character Vlad the Impaler. He is a valiant prince of Transylvania. The cruel Sultan Mehmed of Turkey demands from Vlad 1,000 male children to join his ruthless army, and that should include Vlad's only son. Pushed to the wall to defend his son and people, Vlad was forced to turn to the dark side. He sought the powerful intercession of the Master Vampire to turn himself into a monster which could strike extreme fear in his enemies in order to overcome and defeat them.

This film has a historical graphic novel look and feel, like many popular films nowadays, much like the "300" films. The computer-generated effects were quite well done. The  battle scenes were quite stylishly shot, without excessive blood and gore. There are also some nifty-looking fantasy shots, like the Master Vampire's memorable tongue scene. The vampire transformation scenes were also quite effective. 

Luke Evans has a nobility in his look and stance that makes him a good choice for this new interpretation of Dracula. Vlad here is a good man who had to sacrifice his own soul to the devil in order to save his family and country, and Evans was able to give a balanced portrayal of this conflicted character. He recently had an intense turn in the small slasher film "No One Lives", and that intensity also served him well here as Vlad. We had seen this Welsh actor in more mainstream hit films like the last "Fast and Furious" film, as well as the last "Hobbit" film, so his career is well on the rise.

The rest of the supporting actors did their best on what basically were one-dimensional roles. The beautiful wife MIrena, as played by the ravishing Sarah Gadon, is ever loving and loyal. The Sultan, as played by a sinister Dominic Cooper, is brutish and violent. It was very good to see two members of HBO's "Game of Thrones" cast in this film. The formidable Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister on GoT) played the Master Vampire as pure evil.  Young Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark on GoT) played Vlad's son Ingeras.

As a whole this film was adequately diverting and entertaining, though not exactly outstanding in any particular way. I do hope this Dracula gets the sequel it seemed to promise at the end of this film. I admit I am curious to see how this new Dracula would fare as a hero-monster in more modern times. 6/10.

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