Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Directed by: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance
Bram Stoker’s iconic monster gets the prequel treatment as Dracula Untold re-imagines Vlad The Impaler’s demonic alter ego as a sort of honorable gothic superhero. Complete with CGI battles and a laughably preposterous script, Universal’s first reboot of their Marvel-esque interconnected monsters universe, offers nothing new to Dracula’s story, whilst severely lacking in either horror or thrills.
No longer the impaler as his unfortunate name would have it, we first meet Luke Evans’ Vlad who’s left his impaling days long behind him. Now, he’s a peaceful and honorable ruler, a tortured soul lamenting his past actions, yet finds solace in the arms of his wife and son.
Is isn’t long before Dominic Cooper’s Turkish Sultan invades Transylvania, forcing Vlad to venture to the aptly named Broken Tooth mountain and succumb to the will of Charles Dances’ crusty old vampire, who bestows upon our hero all the qualities that will make Vlad into the monster we come to know.
Herein lies the problem with Dracula Untold. Vlad himself is just too damn heroic to be truly monstrous. Despite his vampiric qualities and powers, never once do we feel that this man will become the monster of Bram Stoker’s legend. From controlling and transforming into bats, to taking on thousands of soldiers single handedly, the film attempts to position Vlad as a good man corrupted by his quest to protect those he loves, but instead merely succeeds in showing off his nifty new superhero powers, purging the character of all the complexity and horror that made Stoker’s creation such a terrifying and iconic monster.
Luke Evans looks the part and does his best, but the shambolic dull script never allows him to extend his fangs (so to speak). Instead it merely exists to push Evans from one CGI fight scene to the next. While Charles Dance hams it up as the older creature and poor old Dominic Cooper is woefully miscast as the Turkish Sultan.
Despite boasting the Untold moniker of its title, the film doesn’t add anything new to the Dracula mythos, but instead languishes in its own twaddle, middling somewhere between period monster horror and gothic superhero fantasy.
The ending leaves things open for potential franchise opportunities, and with recent promises that this is the first in Universal’s “monsters universe”, we can probably expect more things to come. Unfortunately though, this is one franchise that desperately needs a stake through its heart.