Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
As a boy, Prince Vlad of Transylvania (Luke Evans) was sent by his father to be trained to fight for the Turkish army where he developed a reputation as Vlad the Impaler that was so fearsome, opposing armies would lay their weapons down rather than face him in battle. Vlad is now ruling as Prince and has become a loving husband and father who hopes to never see war at his doorstep again. When Sultan Mehmed of Turkey (Dominic Cooper) sends an emissary demanding that Vlad send 1000 boys to join his army, including Vlad’s own son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), he knows that his peace is at an end. As his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) pleads with him to save their son, Vlad seeks out a dark power to help him protect his family against the Sultan’s armies. In a cave deep in the mountains, Vlad fencounters an ancient evil yearning to be released from its stony prison. The Master Vampire (Charles Dance) makes Vlad a deal: he can have the Vampire’s power for three days, but if he succumbs to the thirst for blood and feeds, the curse will never leave him and the Vampire will be free to walk the Earth again. Becoming the Impaler once more and wrapping himself in this newfound power, Vlad becomes the most terrifying foe the Turks have ever faced, but even that may not be enough to save his family or himself.
Dracula Untold has a big plus in it’s favor. The cast is full of interesting actors, many of whom fans will recognize from Game of Thrones. My two favorites however, are Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper. I find Evans to be a very forceful presence on screen and think he has a uniquely dark charisma and Cooperpossesses a languid ease that lends itself to playing aristocrats and royalty very naturally. I personally think that Evans would be perfect to play one of the likeable anti-heros that are dominating the TV landscape right now as opposed to being the outright lead of a film like Dracula Untold. So much of what is compelling about him is how he uses his eyes and that can be too subtle for an IMAX screen. Otherwise, this movie has no complaints from its cast.
The direction is another matter completely. From a color palette that veers from too muddily dark to too glaringly bright, Dracula Untold is occasionally hard on the eyes. The battle sequences are also so fast and scattered that the action is literally incomprehensible. You have little to no idea what is happening aside from being beaten over the head with the fluttering bat sound effect. Most notably ludicrous is when the fighting is slowed down and blurrily displayed in the reflection of a rotating sword blade for almost a whole minute. The fact that this is director Gary Shore’s feature film debut is painfully obvious. Hamstrung by the inept directing, this film can’t fully capitalize on the interesting telling of this classic tale and the good work of its actors. C+