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Film Review: Dracula Untold

At first glance, Dracula Untold just looked like a slightly darker Van Helsing or 2010’s The Wolfman.  But don’t let that scare you because this film isn’t a festering pile of refuse.  Sure, it’s not exactly Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu or Let The Right One In but it is still a decent film that people will actually enjoy watching.

Okay, enough comparisons.  On to the review.

Vlad (Luke Evans) was one of 1000 Transylvanian boys sent to the Turkish Empire as a tithe.  He grew up to be the fiercest, most frightening soldier of them all and earned the nickname ‘Vlad the Impaler.’  Eventually he grew up, regretted his wicked ways and returned to Transylvania to rule as Prince Vlad.  The end….of the intro.

It is now the early 16th Century and Vlad has vowed to take care of his people and ensure that they never have to endure the horrors he was forced to live through.  Unfortunately nature has a funny way of coming full circle, so of course the new Turkish Sultan demands a new tithe of 1001 boys, including Vlad’s own son.  This doesn’t sit well with his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and eventually Vlad gives in to her demands, murdering the Turkish envoys in the process.

To make matters worse, Vlad has no standing army and the Turkish Empire has tens of thousands of soldiers.  In desperation, he returns to a cave known to contain a demonic presence, hoping to strike a deal.  The strange vampire within (aptly played by Charles Dance) offers him quite the bargain.  Vlad can have his power for three days to use as he sees fit.  If he fails to feed on human blood during that time, he will become fully human again.  Should he feed at all, he will stay a vampire for eternity.

Taking the bargain out of hope and desperation, Vlad accepts the deal and becomes the most powerful and feared creature on the battlefield.  He does so because he’s confident that his personal willpower and love for his family and countrymen will keep him strong.  With that mindset it will be easy to complete a deal with the devil without suffering any failures or setbacks, right?

The rest of the film deals with Vlad fighting his new urges and thousands of Turkish warriors.  While the fight scenes manage to stay visceral and entertaining, there is a lot of twirling camera action on so it’s sometimes difficult to figure out just what is going on during the larger conflicts.

The acting is incredibly varied.  Luke Evans is fine as the stoic ‘hero’ though nothing special.  Charles Dance is fun to watch because it looks like he’s genuinely enjoying himself as the big bad unspeakable evil.  Unfortunately, Sarah Gadon’s character falls a bit flat and Dominic Cooper’s Turkish Sultan Mehmed is the least interesting antagonist I’ve seen in a very long time.

As for the special effects, they are impressive (though I did not view the film in IMAX 3D).  All-in-all, Dracula Untold is not a bad film at all.  It may even have done well as a summer blockbuster.  Considering that Universal Studios has already announced that they are rebooting all their Universal Monsters, this was a decent film to test the waters with.  It shouldn’t flop, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.