There are few characters, in any medium that has had more exposure than Dracula himself. So here we go again, with another Dracula movie. This movie, a glimpse into the origin of the legend himself. Choosing to go with the Bram Stoker’s origin of Dracula being Vlad The Impaler.
The story follows Vlad as he tries to maintain a peace over his country of Transylvania. When the threat of the Turkish Empire becomes too real to ignore. He seeks out an ancient and evil power in which to combat the Turkish force. In this film, he is portrayed as an honorable family man, and his transition to becoming Dracula is an act of courage and sacrifice. Many people feared this movie, its sounds pretty cheesy. However, I must admit, it’s actually a pretty fair movie.
This film had way more going against it even before it released. This movie was originally slated for a 2011 release with a different director and lead actor. It was even meant to shoot in Australia and ended up being shot in Ireland. Not to mention the material of Dracula is so hard to pull off. Most audience are skeptical of Dracula movies because they tend to be way closer to bad than good. This film felt no different. The trailer definitely makes Vlad almost seem like a good guy, and not one of the cruelest generals in all of history as we’ve come to know. Trying to spin Dracula into the role of protagonist is as up hill as you can get. It is fully embracing of the current Hollywood fad of Dark & Gritty, proving it’s allegiance by washing out almost all of it’s colors for Black, Gray and more Black. Surrounded by a mediocre and unproven cast… It was hard having a lot of expectations for this film. Dead on arrival is what I expected. Sure the sheer appreciation of Dracula in pop culture might see this movie making its money back, but it won’t be good… it can’t be good.
Somehow the story stands up and delivers a pleasurable movie experience. To be honest, this movie tripped over itself quite a few times. Which is probably more from the inexperience of the director. If Gary Shore would have handled just a few more scenes a little differently, this movie could have gotten a lot better very quickly. For instance, during the opening scene. Were treated to very bland narrator giving a brief history of Vlad the Imapler. It’s a pretty unremarkable scene until you see a silhouette of Vlad kneeling over and praying in front of a field of impaled people. That scene needed to stay still on a screen for 5 to 10 more seconds. It’s very powerful imagery, and it certainly woke up my senses. Give the audience a chance to literally say… “Damn… he did that?”. Impaling was cruel and reading about it doesn’t do it any justice.
The bulk of this movie sits on the shoulders of Luke Evans. For what it is worth, were lucky his shoulders are broad. He carries the entire film becoming a very believable Dracula. My biggest issue going into the film was how they planed on portraying him as a protagonist. This was a hard sell for me, and Evans does a good job of making it work anyway. He comes across as a man who at the very least cares about his people. He is guilty of his past atrocities and the film doesn’t shy away from this fact. Evans manages to seem caring and courageous while also being menacing and vengeful. It’s a shame the film is generally ill cast and doesn’t give him an opportunity to work with anybody. His best interaction comes with the master vampire portrayed gracefully by Charles Dance, Mr Tywin Lannister himself. Which brings us to where this films short comings. It’s biggest mistake is the sheer lack of dialogue. The script just doesn’t have much substance too it. I honestly feel the film had one conversation of merit, maybe one and a half. Evans scene with Dance is the obvious highlight of the film in terms of actual dialogue. Some of the set action pieces will ultimately be remembered better, but this the scene where Vlad gets his powers is grim and intense.
What you have in the end is an origin story that doesn’t really go very deep into his motivations. While I appreciate the film not being overdrawn, it moves way too quickly from piece to piece. The CGI and cinematography is pretty good all things considered. I’ll even give it a nod for some tasteful use of gore. It’s just a good movie, it does enough to keep itself from being laughable, but chooses to be mediocre in too many ways to give it alot of praise. You’ll see all the twitch and turns coming, and the action while fun still very familiar. Evans keeps you watching because he is ultimately pretty enjoyable, and I’m fine with him being in 2014. I would even entertain a sequel if Luke Evans and Charles Dance get to work off of each other more.