Dracula is a pretty iconic character. Since 1931, the character has seen many revisions and alterations, and numerous origins stories, so to sell first time director Gary Shore‘s Dracula Untold, Universal is pitching this as the untold story of Vlad the Impaler, who would become Dracula, by mixing history (or lack thereof), fiction (there is a whole lot of it), visual effects, and by subtly telling us that he isn’t the only monster to walk the earth. In fact, the film is actually an extension of the larger monster universe that Universal is now building where the classic monsters of yesteryear are now walking amongst us in modern times.
Because everyone else’s films are serialized and building to have larger story arcs, why not use it on the classic monsters that we all know and love. Problem is, Dracula Untold kicks things off in the most generic way. While it is a seemingly fun twist on the iconic character, Dracula Untold wastes a whole lot of potential. Hit the jump for more.
Dracula Untold tells the story of Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) before he became Dracula, the blood sucking vampire from the Bram Stoker novel. Vlad is a dedicated to protecting his wife (Sarah Gadon), son, and small kingdom, which can be easily overpowered by the likes of Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper). But when Mehmed asks Vlad for 1000 young subjects, one of which has to be his own son, Vlad heads out to a desolate cave where Caligula (Charles Dance), the Roman emperor turned ancient demon, gives him the power of 1,000 men, the speed of a falling star, and control of the night. However these powers come at a grave price, Vlad will have an insatiable thirst for human blood, and if he succumbs to his thirst in three days, he will become the demon the immortal demon that Caligula is.
Of course with every new origin stories comes new rules and conditions. Twisting them in the years that Dracula has existed comes with the territory, and almost all of the time, the rules are always hazy and unclear. The twist of it all is that even though he drinks the blood of his fallen beloved, and uses his powers to resurrect his fallen army to strike back at Mehmed. As a result, the audiences is asked to sympathize Vlad for he did everything he could to protect his kingdom, but in the end he couldn’t.
There in lies the potential for this film to be great, had it not been for it’s lack of reminding us of what makes the character so great. In order to build this supposed monster universe Universal wants, there needs to be money, and you can’t have that world with the R-rating a character like this deserves. You need to give it the PG-13 rating. So now the Dracula’s fangs are dulled. The film doesn’t even have the bite it needs to break the skin. While there is plenty of action to go around, all of it seems softened by the act the Dracula has to be this larger than life demon of darkness who can use his powers to call on a flock of bats to be used as weapons or means of transportation.
And that is what a lot of Dracula Untold is, just visual blustering. The substance is there lying in wait, just begging to come out, but it doesn’t. We are forced to sit through so many dizzying action sequences that make the film just another generic fun watch. But give credit to Universal for having faith in Gary Shore, who is making his directorial debut with this film.
But somehow, if you still find yourself sitting through the mess, you are teased with an ending that opens the door to those monsters possibly meeting up Avengers style to deal with a much greater threat. Dracula Untold is unclear on what the threat is, considering the scene was just added in a few months ago, and it doesn’t completely make up for the many missteps the films takes in the 92 minute run, but it will leave you slightly intrigued as to, what Dracula would do in the modern day era.