Dracula Untold

Posted by Joel Copling

Perhaps this story of Vlad the Impaler's depraved metamorphosis into a creature of the night is untold because it's a bore? "Dracula Untold" would like to believe otherwise, for here are all the hallmarks of a film aspiring to be a thrilling, blockbuster-type fantasy spectacle that is deeply marred by incompetent filmmaking. Just take a gander at the action sequences, which are all shaky, murky disasters of editing and cheap CGI. Then there is the narrative itself, which hurries through as thought it has nothing to lose toward a chaotic finale with approximately zero reasons given for us to care. Then there are the actors, a solid troupe given inane dialogue to recite blandly (with one exception).

The Vlad of this film, as played by a bored-looking Luke Evans, is pretty much the Vlad of both legend and history: a ruthless warrior who earned his nickname by personally killing thousands of peoples, whom he then quite literally impaled on long stakes. He became known in some circles as "Dracula," and the film embraces that myth, too: a peace-desiring prince who was driven into action by those of a rival sultan named Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), before turning to an ancient vampire (Charles Dance, tearing up his minimal screen time as if he thinks this movie is worth the trouble), who gave him the power of immortality--and of immense strength, control over the weather (only, in the film's case, when the script deems it necessary), and the ability to shapeshift into a large colony of bats, which then attack at his command.

None of this is even remotely involving--not from a dramatic standpoint (Vlad has a wife and son, played by Sarah Gadon and Art Parkinson, but neither is remotely developed on any tangible level) and certainly not from an aesthetic one (John Schwartzmann's cinematography clouds everything in an eternal darkness, while the aforementioned CGI only works when we see the aftereffects of a stake to the heart). The film only comes to life through Dance's portrayal of an ancient creature, who, perhaps, holds a nugget of regret deep down, and for the final minutes, which bring action to a different, more recognizable era in a way that provokes a genuine response of interest. Otherwise, "Dracula Untold" is a self-serious exercise in tedium.

Film Information

Luke Evans (Vlad), Sarah Gadon (Mirena), Dominic Cooper (Mehmed), Art Parkinson (Ingeras), Charles Dance (Master Vampire), Diarmaid Murtagh (Dumitru), Paul Kaye (Brother Lucian).

Directed by Gary Shore and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, based on characters created by Bram Stoker.

Rated PG-13 (intense warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, sensuality).

92 minutes.

Released on October 10, 2014.