|DOG'S MOVIEHOUSE: "DRACULA UNTOLD: TOO MUCH LEFT UNTOLD!"|
|Written by The Kendog|
|Thursday, 30 October 2014 17:40|
3 OUT OF 5 ON KENDOG’S BARKOMETER!
Howdy folks! It’s The Kendog!
Upon seeing the trailers for the latest reinvention of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire, to say I was less than thrilled would have been an understatement. Let’s just say that the idea of spending a couple of hours in the middle of a mindless CGI-fest that turns Dracula into a superhero was about as appealing as walking across a hot asphalt highway covered in glass. Thankfully, watching DRACULA UNTOLD was far less painful than that. It’s still got its problems, but DRACULA UNTOLD manages to be fairly entertaining until things devolve in the last act.
The idea of Dracula as a hero is not an unusual one. The inspiration for Drac, Vlad The Impaler, is considered to be very much the hero among his fellow Romanians, so the idea of Dracula as a fictional hero is not as farfetched as it might sound. In this interesting script by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, Prince Vlad is a noble prince trying to protect his kingdom and family from the invading Turks. Vlad (played with an impressive amount of gravitas by Luke Evans), having been trained in the brutal fighting methods of the Turks, simply wants to be left alone.
Unfortunately the Turks have other ideas. Led by former childhood friend turned Sultan Mehmed (played with evil relish by Dominic Cooper), the Turks want Vlad to turn over one thousand boys to the Turkish army, including Vlad’s own son. Well Vlad’s not having any of that, as you might well imagine, but his defiance might mean then destruction of his kingdom. So Vlad decides to make a bargain with a creature living in a mountain just outside of his lands. This creature, a master vampire (the great Charles Dance), imbues Vlad with vampiric powers for three days after which Vlad will return to normal. There is however, a catch: if Vlad drinks human blood within the three days he will remain a vampire forever.
OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR "DRACULA UNTOLD"
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Now everyone knows what happens to good ol’ Vlad so the destination doesn’t really matter here, but the journey in DRACULA UNTOLD is, for most of its running time, a fairly entertaining ride. The movie never rides into high camp and Evans is an engaging Dracula. The interaction between Evans and Dance is probably the best scene in the movie. The direction by first time feature director Gary Shore is for the most part assured and steady, even if he does borrow a bit from movies like 300 or TROY. I enjoyed the idea of Vlad sacrificing his humanity to save his family and Evans does a good job of balancing the tragic tones of his character with a bit of fun at discovering his new powers. He gets strong support from Sarah Gadon as his wife and young Art Parkinson as his son. Cooper is appropriately evil without overdoing it and Dance is wonderful as always.
The trouble is, after an intriguing first hour, DRACULA UNTOLD reverts exactly to the type of film I was afraid it would become. Suddenly what was an interesting, well-paced build into horror-fantasy becomes a video game cheese-fest, with the major battle involving Dracula sending a bazillion bats into the invading Turks reeking of studio interference. The movie almost saves itself in the last act with the battle between Mehmed and Dracula becomes personal, but then almost shoots itself in the foot again with a hastily assembled prequel set-up.
I think the biggest problem with DRACULA UNTOLD isn’t what’s shown onscreen, but with what isn’t. Character reversals and plot points happen with such tone altering rapidity that there is the sense of a great deal of this film left on the cutting room floor. If that’s the case, then DRACULA UNTOLD may have had a much more entertaining tale to tell. Let’s hope the upcoming DVD has an extended cut that fleshes this story out a bit. As it stands, DRACULA UNTOLD is a diverting time waster, nothing more. SO SAYETH THE KENDOG!
DRACULA UNTOLD is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality.