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DRACULA UNTOLD (review)

Review by Elizabeth Robbins
Produced by Michael De Luca
Screenplay by Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Based on Dracula by Bram Stoker
Directed by Gary Shore
Starring Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, 
Dominic Cooper, Samantha Barks, 
Charles Dance, Charlie Cox

It’s that time of year again.

The days are growing shorter, the leaves change their color, there is a crispness in the ear, and Hollywood floods the theaters with slasher films and monster flicks.

Dracula Untold tries to break apart from the pack as an epic, Tolkien-sque fantasy, thinly veiled as a retelling of the classic Dracula tale.

Luke Evans (The Immortals, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) stars as Vlad Tepes, Prince of Transylvannia.

Once a political prisoner of the Sultan of Turkey, trained by the Turks to be the ultimate soldier, and now lives a quiet family life with his Queen, Mirena (Sarah Gadon, Amazing Spider-Man 2) and son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson, Game of Thrones) and tries to keep peace in his kingdom.

When the new Sultan demands Vlad not only pay his yearly tribute, but invokes the old custom of conscripting 1,000 sons for the Turkish army, Vlad refuses. To protect his small kingdom from the wrath of the mighty Turkish army, Vlad makes a deal with a monster for dark powers to turn back the invading forces.

While I found Dracula Untold vastly entertaining, I don’t think it was in the way the filmmakers intended.

The film seems to know exactly what it is when it comes to the action scenes. The battles and use of the supernatural as a weapon are fun to watch. However, when it come to the dramatic scenes, the film takes itself way to seriously. Myself and other audience members laughed out load at the romantic scenes (Of which there were many. With the number of times Luke Evans gets shirtless, it is obvious which demographic the filmmakers were playing to), we laughed at death scenes, and we laughed at families being torn apart.

Probably not the response the director wanted.

Charles Dance (Games of Thrones) plays the monster, and chews the scenery with every one of his vampire teeth. And I mean that in the best possible way, he looked like he was having a grand ol’ time.

Evans feels like he stepped off the set of The Hobbit and decided to shoot Dracula Untold on a lunch break, with very little difference in look or feel in his characters. It’s as if director, Gary Shore, saw Luke Evans in The Desolation of Smaug and said, “Him, that’s the guy! we don’t need to change a thing.”

In all fairness, it is Shore’s first feature film, which might explain why iacting wise it is rough around the edges. However, Shore comes from a commercial background. He knows how to make things look pretty, and it shows. The battle scenes are exciting, the sets are excellent, and the costumes are beautiful. I can almost hear the sewing machines and the dremels of cosplayers everywhere firing up.

As long as you know what you are in for, Dracula Untold is a good time. It more in the vein of 300 or King Arthur, period piece battlefield movie with a little supernatural thrown in.

For those looking for a good Halloween monster movie, you are better off skipping Dracula Untold and renting/streaming the classic Bela Lugosi Dracula or Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

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