‘Dracula Untold’ Sort Of Retells A Familiar Tale (Movie Review)

Dracula UntoldWhen I first saw the poster for Universal’s Dracula Untold I instantly was fooled into thinking this was some kind of fan made poster art for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, at least it looked like it belonged to that particular franchise.  My opinion on the matter still holds true even today when I look at the movie’s poster art as shown at the bottom of this review.  It has the making of a really good Batman concept poster, at least in my opinion it does.  However, I digress.  I won’t waste your time by selfishly going off on a tangent bickering as to why I hate the poster art so much for Dracula Untold, but instead I’m going to forget the fact that I even mentioned it (despite it being embedded in print now) and move along because we have much bigger fish or should I say bats to fry here in this movie review.  So whether you believe that Universal intends this film to be a reboot of the Universal Monsters franchise or not is your prerogative.  Mine is to report on everything that simply goes down in this “first entry.”  Shall we get started?

Before we begin, here’s what I cannot believe.  I find it incredibly hard to believe that Universal trusted the fate of their potential “franchise” on first time feature film director Gary Shore.  The man has one short film to his name back in 2006.  Heck!  My IMDB resume is longer than his!  Unbelievable!  In addition, the story also chooses to stray away from Bram Stoker’s 1987 novel Dracula and focuses on a new origin story of Count Dracula, formerly known as Vlad the Impaler, who uses his dark powers to save his family and protect his kingdom.  Luke Evans portrays the titular character with Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon and Samantha Banks in supporting roles.

What’s interesting to me here is the fact that the film underwent several reshoots after the end of its production to apparently tie it in with planned Universal Monsters franchise.  I thought The Mummy was going to be the first film in this said universe, but I must be wrong.  I guess there’s always a chance of cameos from this film into The Mummy, but again I don’t have a crystal ball.  What really cracks me up though is the fact that Gary Shore went on record saying something to the effect that it’s optional for Universal if they want to use this film as a launching pad. What I take away from all of this is if this film sucks or severely underperforms, reboot the Dracula series and launch as originally intended with The Mummy.   I have been known to be wrong before a time or two so we shall see.  Only time and box office numbers will tell.  Man of Steel wasn’t all that great, but Warner Bros. stuck by that one.  However, I digress because we have a Dracula Untold plot to talk about now.

Dracula Untold

The plot, as you would expect and have probably already seen played out in the trailers, is rather simplistic in nature.  In our story here the infamous Transylvanian prince (Evans) earned his name Vlad the Impaler while he was enslaved in the Turkish army.  It’s explained in the film as to why he is coined with this moniker and his reasons for what he did and how he justified his brutal actions so I won’t go into anymore details there.  Just know this.  All the prince wants when we meet him in the time period that the majority of this film takes place in is peace for his kingdom and ultimately safe harbors for his wife (Gadon) and only son (Art Parkinson).  We all know that won’t last or else we would have no conflict and therefore no movie to discuss.

So there’s this Turkish leader named Mehmed II, portrayed by Dominic Cooper.  Once upon a time, we are lead to believe that Vlad and him were once semi close while Vlad served his time in the Turkish army.  Their friendship is easily squashed when Mehmed restarts an old tradition, which Vlad thought was a thing of the past, where the Turkish army requires 1,000 Transylvanian sons to train and fight on their behalf.  When Vlad stands defiant to Mehmed, the latter requires 1,001 sons, the extra being Vlad’s son.  Knowing that the people of Transylvania stand no chance against the Turkish armies, Vlad recalls an ancient legend of a “vampire” that inhabits a lone cave way up in a far remote mountain.  The lore behind this lonely soul is that he’s waiting for one to eventually take his place.  Vlad seeks this creature out only to discover like Spider-Man does in his films, with great powers comes great sacrifices.  Vlad has a choice to make.  Embrace the dark to save his family and people by single-handedly defeating the evil Turks or see everything he knows and loves lost in life.  I think you know where this story is heading for I won’t spoil anything else.  I pretty much told you everything that you could possibly learn from the trailer itself.  We all know the man, or should I say monster, that Vlad ultimately succumbs to being,  The rest of the story and how it plays out is for you to discover through the world of movie magic.

Now that we have the main gist of the story out of the way we can spend a moment talking about the good and the bad of Dracula Untold.  However, first let me get this off my chest.  In my opinion, these Universal Monsters movies should all be Rated-R.  I want to see them done right.  Now I know all the naysayers will argue that I’m crazy and say take Christopher Nolan films for example or the legendary monster films of the past.  That’s fine, but I must remind them this is a H-O-R-R-O-R film in current times where such franchises as the Saw films have flourished.  Universal did a fine job of setting Dracula Untold up, but a Dracula movie to me means sensuality and sexuality.  I know it’s not necessary to see, but what better way to feel the compassion and attachment Dracula has with his wife than to see them in the act of lovemaking?  It worked for me in 300.  And since this is a horror movie let the gore and scares prevail.  The gorier and scarier the better.  Granted, once again, we are talking about Dracula and historically it has always been a love story.  I guess that’s why I do like Dracula Untold as much as I do because despite the film’s restrictive PG-13 rating, things do get pretty violent here and I like that.  It’s actually quite bloody for a PG-13 film, but again I want horror, bloody vampire embraced horror.

Dracula Untold

So for the most part, the performances were pretty solid with the exception of Dominic Coper, whom I love in everything, just not this.  In my opinion, Luke Evans was both believable and likable as the infamous Count Dracula and his interactions with Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance were probably my favorite and most memorable moments form Dracula Untold.  I’m a fan of what they did with the origin story here, but that’s not to say there are not problems either.  Most notably, the story was rather predictable.  It had its heart tugging moments, but for the most part it almost plays out like a Superman movie.  No one can stop Count Dracula in this feature, save for his kryptonite, hence my Superman reference once again within this review.  If there were more challenges in the screenplay for Dracula to overcome, perhaps I would have loved this more.  I love the spin they put on his powers and a certain time period as to which he is tested and expire, but other than that he’s pretty unstoppable throughout.  I also found it funny that the majority of the battles and attacks by the Turks were in the dark, but it is what it is…a movie.

It all comes down to this really.  Is it a movie worthy of setting up the entire Universal Monsters franchise?  I don’t believe it is, but only time and box office numbers will tell.  If you’re curious about Dracula Untold like I was, I’d say it’s worthy of your attention, but also don’t break the bank over it either.  However, given it’s Halloween season, I’m sure Dracula Untold will receive plenty of love this weekend.  Annabelle did last weekend.  And I can guarantee you that Dracula Untold is a much better picture from its rich production values, on par performances, some humor and the lure of the historic lore of what we all crave in life…monsters, most notably vampires.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  The appeal of vampires at the box office is like them, undying.  And while I understand the need to reboot the Dracula lore for a new generation of moviegoers, I just wish it was so much more that what I got.  I wanted to be succulently bitten by it.  It’s definitely no Bram Stoker picture.  It’s passable as Man of Steel with Dracula, and that’s that.  Bring on The Mummy!

Dracula Untold

Opens Everywhere Today!

Dracula Untold Movie Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

3 Responses to “‘Dracula Untold’ Sort Of Retells A Familiar Tale (Movie Review)”

  1. Eric with Cheese

    Is this the only major studio horror movie for this Halloween season? I’m looking forward to this because (a) I have a discounted ticket thanks to my buying of the Psycho sequel collection on DVD, and (b) I’m happy to see vampires outside of Twilight/The Vampire Diaries and the like. I hope its better than what I’ve heard people saying.

  2. Brian White

    Well there was Annabelle last weekend 🙂

  3. Gregg

    For a 90-minute film, I felt like I was in the theater two and a half hours.