Dracula Untold Review
It’s hard to live up to the legend of Dracula, an iconic character both in literary and cinematic terms; so it’s no wonder that so few have done it justice.Dracula Untold ticks many of the boxes to fit into that same unfortunate category, rising in the wake of one of the worst horror character reinventions of all time: I, Frankenstein. With CG battle sequences borne out of the age of Peter Jackson’s middle-earth adventures, and an almost complete disavowal of all the established lore – and also of the faint historical truth beneath – it’s easy to similarly dismiss this film as just another waste of Studio money and audience time, but it’s not actually that bad.They’ve actually done something a little different which, for some, may give even earn it a pass. Just like Maleficent before it – or Oz / Wicked – Dracula Untold seeks to not only investigate the story of this fabled villain’s origins, but also reinvent him as something of a tragic hero, compelled to turn to darkness in order to save the light in his life.
Sure, Coppola’s masterful take on Stoker’s classic-defining story dipped into the tragedies of Vlad the Impaler’s past, but devotes an entire movie to this aspect, rewriting ‘history’ to turn the Prince of Darkness into more of a hero than a villain. Whilst this in itself will turn off many, and whilst the end result isn’t even in the same league as some of the other reinventions that we’ve seen of late, it's actually far better than you might expect from its PG-13, CG-driven genetic makeup.
Luke Evans commits to the lead role, and Charles Dance turns up to lend a little background ghoulishness to the proceedings, and, if you can get past the fact that they’ve clearly turned one of fiction’s greatest villains into something of an anti-hero – no doubt for the purposes of heading up the planned Avengers-style Universal Monsters ensemble reboot – then it’s actually a quite watchable offering, arguably even more forgivable for a directorial debut too. For a directorial debut, there are lots of visual flourishes here – POV shots of dying soldiers, battles seen through the reflection of a sword, or Dracula-vision – but these only detract from what is otherwise a pretty solid outing, particularly for a first shot at something so iconic.
It’s not Stoker, it’s not Coppola, but it’s not I, Dracula either.
More enjoyable than it has any right to be, Dracula Untold may well be a pale and frequently bloodless retelling of a classic work, but, if you're prepared to swallow a different take on the Prince of Darkness' origins, then the film actually offers up a reasonably engaging spin.
Classic horror aficionados will likely be - understandably - outraged, but if you can distance this feature from its iconic progenitors, then you might forgive this alternate reimagining. It may not be worthy of Bram's legacy, or of even standing in the long shadow of Coppola's impressive adaptation, but it's not Van Helsing either, and it's certainly not I, Frankenstein. Which, if that's what you were expecting, might come as a nice surprise.
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