Thursday, November 13, 2014

This Dracula Doesn’t Suck

The gritty vampire re-boot drives audiences batty in the surprisingly entertaining Dracula Untold. 


ARTH VADER (AV): For a character that bears no introduction, the re-imagined origin of the infamous Vlad the Impaler–more commonly known as Count Dracula–menaces his enemies and delights us, somehow, in this latest vamp en fuego film. All the story elements are in place to make for what could have been an epic origin tale. Keeping line with Dracula's mythos, the film takes place in Transylvania and spins the tale of a desperate Vlad eager to save his people from invading Turks while holed up in Castle Dracula. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The story of Dracula has probably been one of the most told stories on the silver screen. We have certainly had our fair share of vampire films in recent years. For me it was refreshing to have this “untold” tale told. The attempt to incorporate history was well intentioned, if not at all accurate. With a little more effort and attention to historic detail, it would have been much more enjoyable, at least for me.


AV: Director Gary Shore pulls no punches in this latest vampire epic with a story of ‘super-Drac’. Luke Evans plays  Transylvania’s original pain in the neck as an insanely handsome and brooding Vlad. To me, Ponty, there are only a couple of roles that even matter in this film. Other than Vlad, is the role of The Master Vampire played by Charles “Lord Tyrell” Dance. He is over-the-top ominous, creepy, frightening and oddly compelling as ‘Vampire Zero’. The only other role that has any (AHEM) tooth, is the role of the twisted Turk overlord, Mehmed, played by Dominic “Howard Stark” Cooper. While hardly in a league to stop the Prince of the Undead, Cooper’s portrayal is cardboard clone but that seems somehow strangely fitting. Thought’s P–Man? 

TP: The performance of Luke Evans carries this film Vader. He brings Vlad the Impaler to life in a way that diverges from what I expected. As the antagonist, Dominic Cooper had very little to do and the script did not allow much breathing room to expand his character. In fact, at just 90 minutes, there wasn’t too much that could be done except to focus on the progression of Dracula. The film moved along steadily and never really gave me time to ponder all the plot holes while it fed me candy.


AV: Oh boy, were there ever visual effects in this movie, Pontificator! There were so many bats in this film, I thought the title character was Bruce Wayne (insert crickets here). Seriously, are there this many bats on Earth? Vlad is able to summon an obscene number of flying rodents in to–literally–crush his enemies. We aren’t talking a few hundred thousand here, folks, its millions and millions of the little flying rats. Drac not only turns into one himself, but apparently he can summon a seemingly endless number of them and the film does a beautiful job of portraying this onscreen. Other notable effects are the over-the-top but enjoyable combat scenes and effects in the cave are disturbingly authentic. Ponts? 

TP: IMAX is the preferred medium for…everything, and this film was visually pleasing. There was no new ground broken for special effects, but there were also no mistakes with them. The scenes with the sunlight searing vampire flesh looked genuine, the landscapes were enthralling, and the costuming was done well… if not entirely accurate historically.


AV: As the first installment of the Dracula trilogy and the vanguard (film) of Universal Studio’s new ‘monster cinematic universe’ (MCU), you can read more on that here , Dracula Untold shows promise in the visual effects department but lacks in quality storytelling. As part of this new universe of monsters, Dracula delivers a good-looking, empty-headed film devoid of character connectivity but still, strangely enough, holds promise for future installments. Many of the characters in this film are mis-cast or phone-in their often dopey, poorly-delivered or dodgy performances. Hopefully this less-than-spectacular opening salvo for this new MCU will help universal build on its new ‘universe’ the right way; with quality screenplays, a focus on meaningful writing and proper casting. 

TP: This film wasn’t the best film ever made, but it also was not the worst. I enjoyed it very much, but not because of the special effects and gore (or should I say lack of gore as it could have been much bloodier). What intrigued me most about the film was the story of Dracula being the “hero.” I have never seen him told in such a way, so the title of the film turned out to be very accurate to what it delivered. The characterization of Dracula as a family man willing to sacrifice his humanity to protect his family and people made him someone worth watching and made me actually care about his circumstances. This film turned a monster into a hero…and if that isn’t a story that has never been told before about Dracula, I don’t know what is.


AV: This one’s in the bag already, oh Pontificatorious one. Universal is all-in with a three-Dracula film trilogy and that is just the start. With a whole phalanx of movies streaming at us filled with werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein’s Monster(s?) and the like, we will soon see theaters filled with more monsters than we can shake a pitchfork at. Lets hope for Universal’s sake, those theaters won’t be empty. 

TP: Usually the box office bottom line determines the future fate sequels, but it seems Universal is “all in” and the film certainly set itself up to continue the story… and the next chapter will most assuredly be very different than the first. 


ARTH VADER rates Dracula Untold: From its dopey name to the downright non-sensical story, Dracula Untold is bleeding opportunities (see what I did there?) trying to tell a good story with a lot of holes. If this new ‘universe’ is to move forward in the right direction, Universal has to do better. With sparks of promise in the performances of the two primary Vamps and strong visual effects, this Dracula reboot (now that its been told and stuff) has potential but still has a long, long way to go. Still, as entertaining as it is ridiculous, I grab my garlic and my holy cross and jam wooden stakes into the hearts of 6 busted blocks in the hopes that Dracula Untold will rise again, better than ever. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Dracula Untold: Love, sacrifice, revenge and hope are what carried this film for me. Yes, I loved the action. Yes I loved the effects. What got me most was the underlying theme of all the entirety of the film happening for a love so strong, it trumped the thirst for blood. With a story truly “untold” this film drained seven (7) busted and bloody blocks. 

Dracula Untold: 6.5 Busted Blocks

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