DRACULA UNTOLD (USA/15A/92mins)
Directed by Gary Shore. Starring Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper.
THE PLOT: Having spent many years in the Turkish army against his will, Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) has returned home to rule Transylvania in peace. When Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), commander of the Turks and former friend of Vlad demands 1,000 Transylvanian boys – including Vlad’s son – to boost his army, Vlad goes to extraordinary lengths to protect his kingdom and his family.
THE VERDICT: There are so many different vampire movies and myths now that it is hard to keep track of them all. Universal. However, has decided to go back to the beginning, and tell the tale of the historical figure that allegedly inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Vlad the Impaler.
Luke Evans takes on the role of Vlad/Dracula in his first leading role in a movie, and does a fine job. Evans’ Dracula is tortured and scared, as well as formidable and more than a little scary. Evans certainly looks vampiric in the role, and brings enough presence to the screen to make the character work. Sarah Gadon takes a step away from her Cronenbergian roles, and takes on the character of Mirena, Vlad’s wife. She doesn’t have an awful lot to do, but she looks good doing it. Dominic Cooper camps up the role of Mehmed; one so similar to those we have seen him play before that it is hard to distinguish this from any of his other roles. Charles Dance has a lot of fun as the Master, and even though he chews through every piece of scenery available, his scenes are menacing and entertaining.
The screenplay, written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, and based on Stoker’s characters blends historical fact and fiction together to give us an understanding of Vlad before he became the tortured romantic he has been recently portrayed as. The film plays with the notions put forward in Stoker’s work, and stretches these out so that Vlad can turn into bats at will, and so a sequel is nicely set up. There are characters that feel entirely surplus to requirement, however, and the vampire myth is never fully explained.
As director, Gary Shore puts all of his weight behind the action sequences, and plays with the physicality of the central character. The trouble arises in the pacing of the film, which seems to rattle along almost too quickly, so that developments feel as though they happen too quickly, and characters are never fully developed. As well as this, there are times when the film feels like a long form music video in its over the top set pieces which, while spectacular, feel as though they were edited for the trailer and not the movie as a whole.
DRACULA UNTOLD is a fun and entertaining origins story of the character we know as Dracula. Luke Evans does well in the leading role, but the rest of the cast struggle to step out from his shadow. First time director Gary Shore directs capably, but there are times when the pacing stumbles, characters feel superfluous and the set pieces threaten to engulf the movie. Still, a Dracula who wins a swordfight by turning into bats? What’s not to love?!

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Dracula Untold
3.0Overall Score
  • filmbuff2011

    Dracula Untold is the latest attempt to breathe life into the undying legend of Dracula, or rather the warrior behind him – Vlad Dracul. In a sense, it plays out like a feature-length version of the prologue to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In deepest Transylvania, the land beyond the forest, ruler Vlad (Luke Evans) is facing an overwhelming threat from the advancing Turkish forces led by Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), who intends to sweep his troops across Europe. Protective of his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), Vlad turns to a dark force that dwells within a cave – a vampire (Charles Dance) who gives him immense power, but at a cost. If he can hold onto his humanity, he can save himself from a fall to darkness. If not, well… Dracula Untold is the feature debut of Dublin-born director Gary Shore. On the strength of his short film The Draft, he was given a big studio film to helm. It’s an ambitious project, but ultimately it has to be judged as a failure. There’s just too much going on in this busy, hectic film. The plague of many a modern film rears its ugly head: an over-reliance on CGI. Vlad’s transformations into flocks of bats are impressive at first, but are over-used to the point of exhaustion. It’s Dracula re-tooled as a medieval superhero, defeating hundreds of enemy soldiers in one quick sweep. There’s little sense of him as a fully-formed character that you can care about (where’s Gary Oldman when you need him?). Evans does what he can, but he’s still something of a bland actor. Dance at least impresses as an imposing vampire, even if he sounds like he’s swallowed a bat (he must have struggled with those vampire teeth). Shore has talent though. If he can find a better story next time, then he might have a chance at delivering a more interesting film. Dracula Untold is just about passable stuff, but nothing to rush out to the cinema to see. **