Director: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance
Release Date (US): 10th October, 2014
Company: Universal Studios/Legendary Pictures
“Men don’t fear swords. They fear monsters.” – Vlad
Dracula Untold reimagines the tale of the legendary gothic character made famous by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel: Dracula. Starring rising star Luke Evans (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug) in the titular role, the film drastically strays from its source material, instead choosing to create an origin story for Count Dracula by focusing on the medieval story of Vlad the Impaler. Threatened by the greed of a Turk warlord, Vlad seeks a power that will save his family and kingdom from invasion – but at what cost?
The film’s story, written by newcomers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, ends up forgettable and simple, burdened by clichéd themes. At no point does Vlad ever feel like the ‘Dracula’ of old – and it’s the movie’s ill-advised fantasy setting that compromises this. Instead of offering anything new, Sazama and Sharpless’ screenplay rather rides on the coattails of other works, never once feeling original.
Universal’s controversial decision to ‘reboot’ the tale of Dracula for commercial motives appears to have back-fired on them. Instead of offering a fresh and darkly gothic new adaptation of Stoker’s much-loved novel for the 21st Century, Dracula Untold instead delivers a tonally-conflicted mismatch that ends up half fantasy epic, half superhero movie. It’s one redeeming quality is its mercifully short runtime and fast pace.
“Do you think you are alive because you can fight? You are alive because of what I did to save you!” – Vlad
Last year, Luke Evans proved he was a star in the making with eye-catching turns in both The Hobbit and the Fast & Furious franchises. His performance is still one of Dracula Untold‘s strongest, but it’s also undermined by weak characterisation. On a different project, Evans would have made a fine gothic Dracula. It’s a great shame that he was instead relegated to playing such a mundane adaptation of the iconic villain.
The supporting cast is largely forgettable, with many only present for the pay-checks. Indeed, you’d have to question the thought process of an actor of Dominic Cooper’s (The History Boys) calibre when selecting roles like these. Cooper never really exerts himself at all during the movie, lumbered with a bland villain who lacks both menace and originality. In the end, it’s Charles Dance (Game Of Thrones) who ends up as the movie’s brightest spark – but, sadly, he is sorely lacking in screen time.
Direction & Tone
The phrase “horror” is used in the loosest sense of the word when applied to this. Instead, director Gary Shore places emphasis on blockbuster visual effects and ‘superpowers’. His crude attempt to capture a ‘dark’ tone through bleak imagery and poor lighting are all too superficial to take seriously. In the end, Shore creates a shallow popcorn affair out of one of the most celebrated novels of all time – and that’s a huge shame.
- This whole movie feels like a 10-year-old tried to put together Batman, Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones – but forgot any meaningful story, depth, characters and nudity…
- Just for clarification the ‘nudity’ part only really applies to Thrones. And yes, “meaningful nudity” is a thing. As of right now it is, anyway.
- I saw somebody criticising this film for all of its historical inaccuracies… as if there wasn’t enough important crap to moan about already…
- Confirming earlier rumours, this movie does indeed take the first steps towards building Universal’s monster ‘cinematic universe’. Sadly, there’s not a single eye-patch-sporting Samuel L. Jackson in sight…
- At the end of the day, this Dracula probably should have remained Untold…
Luke Evans and Charles Dance can’t save this dull and insipid interpretation of the legendary Dracula. Director Gary Shore fails to grasp the iconic character’s gothic appeal with weak direction and an overwhelming desire to create a superhero movie.