Kyle J. Steenblik

Dracula Untold lacks teeth

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dracula-untold-imax-poster1Dracula Untold was hit and miss at best, incoherent at worse.  While there were entertaining parts, and a decent story the film was plagued with inconsistencies, careless makeup and effects, and substantial plot holes.  Now given that, this is a Dracula movie, and what may be the initial entry in Universal’s Monsters franchise, it might be appropriate to hold this film to a lower standard.  Movies on this genre are supposed to be riddled with inconsistencies, careless effects and amateurish makeup, right?  Yes, first time director Gary Shore seems to have inadvertently mimicked the low budget feel of classic Universal Monster films, with a much larger budget.

In the mid 1400’s the Turkish Empire was expanding.  To feed these armies the Turkish Sultan demanded a tribute of boys from his conquered kingdoms to train into fierce solders.  One boy grew to be a much-feared warrior knows as Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans).  Once freed Vlad returned to his home in Transylvania where he regained his place as prince to rule his lands in peace.  Events take a sinister turn when he finds traces of Turkish scouts in his lands.  He and a pair of his best solders track the men to a cave high in the mountains.  Inside that cave, they find nothing but death, and a creature only found in nightmares.  Vlad just escapes with his life, his friends and the Turk Solders were not so lucky.  Escaping with his life Vlad first rushes to the monastery to seek answers from a monk, who tells him the story of an ancient vampire, the first vampire (Charles Dance), confined to that cave, until a day he give his power to another.  Upon returning to his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson) where he confesses his fear the Turks will return and the Sultan will steal boys for his armies, as happened when he was a child.  Sure enough, the next day, the Turks show up, demand 1000 boys.  Vlad appeals to his once friend and adopted brother, Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper), who demands Vlad’s son along with the 1000 boys, as punishment for Vlad’s insolence.  When the Turks come to retrieve Vlad’s son, Vlad slays them with their own swords.  Knowing this will enrage the sultan Vlad flees to the vampire’s cave to acquire the power to defend his people, but the power comes with conditions.

That is just the first act, and the second and third acts are also crammed into this 90-minute film.  This short runtime does not give director Gary Shore nearly enough time to unwrap this complex narrative, and present it in a coherent and completely pleasing package.  I believe he made several decisions poorly out of simple inexperience.  Important elements of the story were cut, or hopelessly run into the ground for the sake of keeping the plot brief and the action long, leaving numerous plot holes.  I might forgive this, if the action had been exhilarating rather than somewhat cool.  For example, you can see in the trailer, when Vlad (now Dracula) fights, or runs, he essentially becomes a small swarm of very fast bats, this is essentially how he looks in 90% of his fight scenes (as Dracula).  It’s a cool effect, and a great visual, but overused to the point of ridiculousness.  The final point I would make here, and what is actually the biggest problem I had, is the makeup.  Good makeup should never be obvious.  Wounds should look like wounds, and blood should look like blood.  Here the makeup was inconstantly used; wounds came and went along with blood.  Bad makeup is obvious, and distracting, poorly applied effects makeup looks absurd.  The only way I can explain this is that Gary Shore was just not paying attention.

All of that being said this film was not all bad, in fact, it wasn’t bad at all.  I would call it disappointing.  The story itself, in spite of the plot holes, was good.  The performances of Luke Evans and Charles Dance were fantastic.  In fact, Charles Dance nearly stole the entire movie for his small part, and I found myself rather wishing his character were the primary subject.  When the visual effects were on form, they were stunning.  Unfortunately, the good elements were not enough to outweigh the more frustrating and distracting elements.

Dracula Untold 2.5 out of 5, only slightly better than average, but not as good as Dracula films of the past. 

 

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