Director: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye
Written by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless and (based on characters created) Bram Stoker
Running Time: 92 mins
Release date: 3rd October 2014
After years of having teenage girls screaming and swooning over the vampires of Twilight, the excitement of reviving the crown prince of all blood-suckers, Count Dracula, coming back to reclaim one of the screen’s great monsters, made my mouth water. Unfortunately the effect of Stephanie Myers’ creation has had a very bad knock on, making the once Prince of Darkness into a, well, really decent chap.
Vlad Tepes, the lord of the people of Transylvania, has led a peaceful life with his wife and son, until a Turk warlord demands that he hands over 1,000 children so he can train them for his army, including Vlad’s own son. Lacking in power to out fight his enemy, Vlad heads for the mountains, where he meets a Master Vampire. Offering the chance for the force of a creature of the night, he has three days and if he can survive without biting anyone, the power will return to the Master, otherwise, he will be a blood feaster forever. Of course, it becomes a battle for Vlad and the insatiable hunger could be his downfall.
While it is all well and good to try to give Dracula some fresh, excuse the pun, blood, director Gary Shore has softened the legendary character to the point of making him dull. Dracula was never dull. He was charismatic, an enigma, a man who appears from the shadows with a thirst for the red stuff. Now he has been made into a loving father, a respected leader and a great guy.
Even after drinking the blood, he becomes more brooding than menacing, having the ability to turn into hundreds of bats, while having enough strength to take on and destroy an army of ten thousand. It may sound exciting but it’s pretty dull, lacking any real tension, any real excitement and delivering nothing we haven’t seen before. Admittedly, it’s miles better than the disastrous I, Frankenstein but not much.
Having the difficult task of playing the Count, The Hobbit star Luke Evans doesn’t do a terrible job. He has enough screen presence to make an impact but he is let down by a wishy-washy script and a deconstruction of the character than would make Christopher Lee shudder away in fear. Yes, he is a solid action hero but Evans’ really doesn’t make enough of an impression to erase the names of Lugosi or Lee.
Dominic Cooper, looking more like a backing singer for Frankie Goes To Hollywood with his flat-top haircut, than a villain, is wasted as the warlord Turk, Memhed. He may look mean and moody but once again the director seems more interested in the CGI than any real character development. Only Charles Dance, in glorious scene-chewing form, as the Master Vampire, knows how to make the most of the dodgy script and even more ludicrous make-up and I would have happily spent the whole film watching him.
Dracula Untold has some fine CGI battle scenes and there are occasional attempts at making the film look more interesting it really is. Ultimately, it is nothing more than a CGI-fest and a tacked on ending that looks like we are in for a series of films, or maybe this is the start of Universal’s Marvel style Monster series. The films had better be stronger than this to make any impression. Tired and uninteresting but saved by Mr Dance. More an action film than a horror, Dracula needs more respect.