Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Critic’s Corner: “Dracula Untold”

    Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
    Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
    Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

    “Dracula Untold” is not a masterful recreation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel. In fact, it’s not even close. Though it packs in some heart-pounding swashbuckling, it’s ultimately a flop.
    The movie opens with some background on Vlad the Impaler, the real-life man who inspired the Dracula myth. Vlad (played by Luke Evans) is given his unfortunate nickname because of his penchant for skewering his fallen enemies on stakes in order to intimidate others.

    Despite this terrifying habit, Vlad is actually a pretty nice guy. He foregoes the life of a soldier to settle down as a prince in Transylvania with his wife and son. Trouble, however, is on
    the horizon.

    When Turkish forces invade Transylvania, Vlad is forced to choose between fighting the intruders or allowing them to steal 1,000 boys, including his son, to be soldiers in their army. Ultimately, the conflict boils over and spawns the legend of Dracula.

    Taking a popular villain and providing their backstory has been a favorite trend in Hollywood lately—consider“Maleficent” starring Angelina Jolie, for example—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good one.

    Still, the beginning of the film is actually compelling, and the difficulty of Vlad’s dilemma is felt by the audience. Vlad has to either hand over his son to a power-hungry Turkish sultan (played by Dominic Cooper) or face going to war. No wonder Vlad searches for a secret third option, which comes in the form of a vampire named Caligula (played by Charles Dance), hidden away in a cave.

    Caligula agrees to help Vlad by giving him vampiric powers, but with a catch: Vlad has only three days before the powers wear off. If he can slay the sultan before the time is up, he keeps his soul and everything returns to normal, but if he drinks the blood of a mortal, he will become Dracula permanently and Caligula will be set loose from his cave to feast upon the mortals of the world.

    From here, the movie devolves into computer generated imagry (CGI) mania and a lot of fighting. Vlad faces the sultan’s forces and uses his newfound powers to singlehandedly brutalize any and all opposing forces before the time is up. In a way, Vlad is fighting for a lot of things: his family, his land and his soul. Still, however noble his political intentions may be, it’s still a vampire movie through and through.

    The movie feels tacky, despite its strong start. All of a sudden Vlad is not just an ordinary man with a tough decision to make; he’s a CGI-enhanced beefcake slicing through the evil sultan.
    To be fair, the movie does its best to distance itself from the “Twilight”-centric vampire genre. After all, this Dracula is a badass­­—a bat-wrangling, chop-your-head-off type of dude. However, the CGI is overused and the plot is underdeveloped, resulting in a forgettable blend of dark battle scenes and a lot of killing.

    The movie could have gone in a more fruitful direction, perhaps making something of the tension between the Middle Eastern antagonist (annoyingly played by the very white Cooper) and the Christians in Transylvania. Instead, the movie concludes with what is meant to be a cliffhanger into a possible sequel involving Caligula as the main antagonist. Of course, it remains to be seen just how badly audiences will even want to see another Dracula movie.

    Folks looking for a fresh take on the classic Dracula tale would probably not enjoy “Dracula Untold” all that much. But if you want to spend a cheap buck and catch a matinee, that’s another story. This author gives Dracula a D on your average A to F scale.

    Will may be reached at [email protected]

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