Directed by: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance
Not another Dracula movie, I hear you groan. Aah, but this is the "untold" story of Dracula. Well, not quite. Rather it's the untold story of Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, the infamous Romanian prince who served as inspiration for the title character of Bram Stoker's classic novel. Except, of course, it's not. This is Vlad/Dracula reimagined, like Mary Shelley's most famous creation in I Frankenstein, for the comic book crowd.
Whenever commentators moan about the proliferation of comic book movies, they usually find themselves hit with the stat that there are usually no more than five or six such movies released in a year. The problem of course isn't in the relatively small number of movies released featuring costumed superheroes, it's how everything from crime thrillers to horror movies are now being forced to adopt the tropes of the comic book movie in order to find themselves greenlit. I suspect during most Hollywood pitch meetings now, writers are met with a response of "Can you make it more like Batman?"
Last week we saw the The Equalizer reworked to appear as though it were based on a non-existent graphic novel, rather than an 80s TV show. This week it's the turn of ol' bad Vlad to get retrofitted for the post Dark Knight world. Dracula Untold borrows from almost every big superhero movie of the past half decade. Here, Dracula (played by Luke Evans, an actor so devoid of charisma he seems to have had the blood drained from his own body) is a brooding member of the gentry who hangs out with bats, like Batman. He clads himself in slick red armour, like Iron Man. He wields a large weapon and wipes out whole armies in one fell swoop, like Thor. His senses are exceptionally heightened, like Spiderman. He can fly through the air, like Superman. And, like almost every superhero to grace page and screen, he has to make a grave sacrifice to save those he loves.
What Dracula doesn't do much of is exactly what you would expect (and likely want, if you're buying a ticket for a Dracula movie). There are no tightly corseted maidens falling prey to his fangs here, as this is aimed at the comic book market, which means you can have as much violence as you like, but sexuality is a no-go. As is customary in modern Hollywood, this is an origin story, which of course means it ends at the point a more interesting story might begin.
Universal seem set on rejigging the classic monsters that built the studio, but on the evidence of this and I Frankenstein, I'll stick with Boris and Bela. What next; the Creature from the Black Lagoon reimagined as Aquaman?
By Eric Hillis