Welshman of the moment Luke Evans (The Hobbit, Immortals) cuts a dash as the anguished and clearly misunderstood Vlad (the Impaler) Dracul, historical Transylvanian prince of legendary cruelty. Clearly a revisionist text, this sets up the politically dubious clash of Westernised, peace-loving Christian Transylvanians versus the tyrannical Muslim Turks. Hmm.
Dominic Cooper (Devils Disciple, An Education) auditions for his Bond villain as Sultan Mehmet, somehow managing to downplay his dialogue and still chew the scenery. Sarah Gadon is ill-served by the script and has to play the token babe/madonna.
The one truly scary character in all this is Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) as an ancient Nosferatu, the kind of mentor you definitely don’t want, exuding chilling, creeping horror for every second he’s on screen.
Up pops comic actor Paul Kaye as a medieval monk, desperately wanting to be taken seriously, but who has blotted his CV so often with dire sitcoms, dramas and some of the worst TV adverts of all time, all you can think is ‘Kaye, you suck, get off the screen, retire and stop embarrassing yourself in front of the proper actors.’
Dracula Re-told has more than it’s share of truly daft moments; Dracula free-climbing a sheer mountain face in his black armour, red cape flowing like a medieval Man of Steel, just one among many unintentionally laughable moments.
In an otherwise po-faced, melodramatic script, one actual joke slips through; Evans’ one-liner on healing his crushed hand – “that’s useful.” Well, it was worth half a chuckle at the time. And you thought Coppola’s Dracula walked the line of portentous twaddle and farce…
Otherwise it’s schlock, stock and fangs as Evans pretty much replays Man of Steel; except in this case, the alien really is a mass-murdering demonic force. And that’s before he turns vampire. Listening to Evans’ justifying his reputation for slaughter is like listening to US State Dept. foreign policy, but the script has to humanise Dracula somehow; back in the Medieval mindset, casual slaughter was the order of the day on all sides. This has to be the tragedy of Prince Vlad, however; for all his power and high-minded ideals, circumstance dictates he has to succumb to vamprism – and that doesn’t exactly go well, either.
In fairness there are some thrilling action sequences lovingly rendered in CGI – Dracula raising the siege by massacring a thousand men single-handed- but none of the CGI can surpass the mortal Dracula taking out five Turkish soldiers in hand-to-hand combat.
Accompanied by a stirring, but one-tone Ramin Djwadi score, Gary Shore’s brisk direction ensures the two hour running time flies by. The modern-day epilogue suggests a sequel. I suggest we still haven’t seen the definitive Dracula.
Dracula Untold (2014)
Director: Gary Shore
Writers: Bram Stoker, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Running time: 2 hr.
Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley, Ronan Vibert, Zach McGowan, Ferdinand Kingsley, Joseph Long, Thor Kristjansson
Related: Thor: The Dark World