Does almost count? It certainly is earnest and honest, this “Dracula Untold”, and it tries like a son-of-a-gun. Ultimately, it falls short, but only after scoring some impressive points in the attempt. What shoots it down in the long run? Brevity, for one, and the lack of an ‘R’ rating for another. A vampire movie that’s virtually bloodless? C’mon. There’s also an over-reliance on CGI–not the first time I’ve written that. But the story is pretty solid, even when the execution is a bit sloppy. And the wrap-up is intriguing…along with a set-up for follow-ups. Plus, there’s the luminous Sarah Gadon as the “monster’s” bride. Big bonus for that.
The plot? Well, it tries to reboot the whole Dracula legend, by using the original Vlad the Impaler inspiration, and turning the bloodsucker into a vengeful freedom fighter. Hey, don’t laugh…some of this stuff actually works to a large degree. When the Transylvania prince is commanded by the leader of the Ottoman Empire to turn over a thousand children, including his own young son, to work as slaves, Vlad is desperate. Knowing that his kingdom would fall to the rival kingdom’s vast army, the Impaler ponders a way to defeat them. Of course, in the film’s prologue, Vlad came across what appeared to be a vampire living in a cave. Guess what happens when he revisits there?
Yes, there’s a predictable quality here, but it’s a mostly fun journey all the same. Luke Evans is a dour Vlad/Dracula, but Sarah Gadon is beautiful and spirited as Mirena/Mina, his great love through time. Dominic Cooper sneers and glowers effectively as Mehmed, the leader of the Ottoman army. Gary Shore directs assuredly, and there are a few nifty effects shots, along with some terrific sound design. The music by Ramin Djawadi is pretty good, and Michael De Luca’s screenplay isn’t awful. Cool costumes too. I almost liked “Dracula Untold”, and its revisionist vampire lore. But, unfortunately, I can’t quite recommend it, because it simply doesn’t coalesce as a whole. But it’s strong in spots, so maybe some should give it a try. Just don’t expect miracles.