Having no doubt suffered spasms of envy at the huge financial success Marvel Studios has experienced with its interconnected superhero film franchise, Universal Studios now means to mold its old monster-movie properties—Dracula, The Mummy, etc.—into a new, interconnected franchise of its own. Fine by me, so long as each entry proves as entertaining as Dracula Untold.
It borrows the character from Bram Stoker’s novel, but reimagines how he became immortal. Enslaved as a child by the Turkish Empire, Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) has ruled Transylvania peacefully for two decades. When the Turkish Sultan (Dominic Cooper) demands one-thousand boys for his army, Vlad refuses, then seeks out, um, alternative means of defending his people from the Turks.
So, yes, here we have yet another origin story. Normally I loathe them as just another tactic for Hollywood to squeeze ever more money out of a tired property. And, in most cases, I would much rather see an iconic character do what said iconic character does instead of watching how he or she became able to do what he or she is known for doing.
Luckily, this particular take on the infamous bloodsucker doesn’t labor too long on Vlad the Impaler as a man (whom Francis Coppola touched on briefly in his 1992 version) before getting to the good stuff. Suffice it to say Vlad has a loving wife (Sarah Gadon) and son and the respect of his people and fellow soldiers. His need to protect all of them, the film says, drives him to a desperate act.
The film really picks up after said act, in which thoroughly creepy Charles Dance (in nicely creepy old-age makeup) temporarily imbues Evans with vampire power. Suddenly Evans can heal rapidly, move with incredible speed, hear for miles and, via a very neat effect, take the form of a swarm of bats. Later, he discovers he can control hordes of the things, not to mention the weather itself.
Tonally, compared to Coppola’s lush, over-the-top epic, this one’s a zippy, down ‘n’ dirty supernatural action flick that, visually, feels a little like the Underworld films. It even carries a PG-13 rating—surprising, actually, given all the spattering of blood and inferred impalements. Nonetheless, it shows that, as a movie character, Dracula is hardly long in the tooth. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 2/3/15