Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dracula Untold review

    Dracula is a historical figure who is, arguably, a lot more interesting than Count Dracula. While Dark Prince is not the sort of movie which is going to persuade you of this fact, the historical Vlad the Impaler lived a very interesting life. Being raised at the Sultan's court, intrigues, imprisonment, and more. If HBO ever wanted to do another show like The Tudors, they could do worse than do one based on his life.

    What does this have to do with Dracula Untold?

    Oddly enough, I would give it a B+ for educational content.

    I can already hear my readers making gasps of confusion. But C.T. Phipps, you magnificent stallion, isn't this a movie where Dracula becomes a swarm of bats to kill hundreds of invading Turks?

    Yes, yes it is.

Luke Evans captures a haunted, tragic Dracula even if he's a man who makes entirely justifiable moral decisions.
     However, this is also a Dracula movie which remembers the Turks existed and even explains what Janissaries are. Any movie which has the Devşirme or "Blood Tax" where children are collected to be turned into the real-life equivalent of Unsullied is aces in my book.

    The movie even remembers Vlad III had a child and spent his formative years in the Ottoman Empire. His Turk-allied brother isn't mentioned (and seems to have been combined with the Sultan) but we history buffs can't have everything.

    The premise of Dracula Untold is Vlad III is the peaceful, noble, good-guy king of Transylvania. He used to be a prisoner of the Turks and was forced to fight for them (which isn't true in RL), but has given up his life of violence to live with his pretty blonde wife. The Turks, however, want 1,000 children for their Janissary army. Unable to oppose the Ottoman Empire on the field, he proceeds to seek a vampire out for the power to defeat their army.

    Much undead mayhem ensues.

The Old Vampire doesn't even have a name but Charles Dance makes him terrifying.
     The vampires in Dracula Untold are less like traditional portrayals of their kind and more like Abyssal Exalted, which are (for the laymen), basically gods. Dracula, at one point, kills an entire army by himself. The bigger problem for Dracula is, who would have guessed, vampirism is alienating to his subjects.

    Luke Evans plays an excellent Vlad III in this movie, more or less looking like a very buff version of Orlando Bloom. While I can't say I approve of a movie which turns Dracula into an unambiguously heroic figure, he's an excellent antihero throughout.

    Indeed, I question the anti-hero part at all since he makes everything seem very-very rational. Once your plan involves making a deal with evil supernatural beings, though, I suppose even good reasoning fails as a moral defense.

    The supporting cast isn't bad either. Dominic Cooper as the Sultan looks (and acts) so much like Karl Urban, it hurts. Sarah Gadon has little role other than to be Dracula's loving and supportive wife but takes that in some unexpected directions, too. Loving and supportive doesn't necessarily mean weak, after all. Game of Thrones' Charles Dance plays a vampire elder so generic he doesn't even have a name but does it so well that he's a potential Palpatine in the making.

Sarah Gadon is a lovely-lovely woman. Reminds me of Rosamund Pike.
    The special effects are serviceable with most of the money saved for some really impressive feats by Dracula with the rest being alluded to. I didn't mind this and the sense of Dracula's godlike powers wasn't bad. This version of Dracula is about as powerful as the one from Castlevania: Lord of Shadows (which is pretty damn powerful).

    I wouldn't say the action in the movie is pretty good but it doesn't embarrass itself, either. Dracula fighting non-superpowered beings like the Turk soldiers could have gotten old quickly, so they mix it up a bit. Mostly, his main power is becoming a swarm of bats which he uses like teleportation in Dishonored (which isn't a flaw mind you). I would have preferred to see more of his super-strength or other abilities, however.

At one point, the Turk army marches blindfolded. I don't know why. The movie doesn't either.
    I'd say more about this movie but there's really not all that much to say. It's a standard heroic journey, except the heroes' journey is becoming a vampire demigod. A lot of the movie is predictable but it doesn't do anything wrong either. The best parts of the movie are when there's surprises but those are few and far between.

    In short, this is a good popcorn movie akin to the Resident Evil movies. Whereas watching Mila Jovovich be an unnaturally attractive zombie slayer is the appeal there, the appeal here is Luke Evans being a vampire-themed superhero slaying members of the Evil EmpireTM. It's like 300 without the racism.



  1. I guess putting Turkish soldiers on pikes never entered the head of this Dracula?

    1. In the movie's biggest deviation from history, Vlad earned his reputation as the impaler working FOR the Turks. Which is complete nonsense, of course. Later, he impales dead bodies as a warning to the Turks. Even then, he says he's doing it so they'll turn back and it can minimize casualties.