Dracula is cool. You don’t need to add loads of special effects and action to make him cool. He doesn’t need a backstory or any evil enemies. Dracula is a scary dude when he just lurks in corridors and bites necks. But this film doesn’t agree…
Luke Evans is Vlad, prince of Transylvania, also known as ‘the impaler’ because he, well, impaled a few thousand people in some wars once. His peaceful reign comes to an end when the Turkish Empire tries to threaten him into giving up his people as slaves. With no other choice, he turns to some old vampire dude in a cave and becomes the Dracula we all know and love. Well, except that he’s basically a superhero in this one and not just some creepy old dude roaming hallways.
The story is fine, I guess, if a little predictable. A lot of the plot points don’t make sense with some of the decisions that people make. I mean, why does Charles Dance’s old vampire hide in a cave waiting for someone to take his curse when he just kills everyone that comes in anyway? There’s a lot of other stupid things as well, but I won’t spoil this film for those of you who will have the joy to watch it one day. But overall the plot seems simple but just doesn’t make all that much sense when you really look at it. I don’t think it is meant to be thought about too much though. Thinking about it will make you question what the characters are actually doing and will reveal just how predictable it really is.
The acting is, fine, I guess. Nobody is amazing in this film. Luke Evans is alright as Vlad, but really he just pulls a lot of strained faces and shouts a bit. Charles Dance as the old vampire is proper b-movie type stuff. He’s cheesy in his attempts to be menacing and evil. Sarah Gadon as Vlad’s wife is average, but then that’s probably just because the script makes her a very plain character. Dominic Cooper as the Turkish Sultan Mehmed II is a weird choice, giving him a tan and an accent and trying to make him seem evil. His lines aren’t great which doesn’t help, but also he just has very little impact as a villain. Yes, he gets the plot going but all he really does it turn up or send his army occasionally and then just summon up some vampire knowledge out of nowhere for a final battle. Not great.
The special effects are largely alright. I mean, all it is is some bats and wispy black fog anyway, but it looks okay. The director Gary Shaw tries to do some interesting things with the camerawork, such as having Dracula’s attack be shown in the reflection of a sword, but really it’s just stuff added to try and make the film more visually interesting. But when you have a very dark coloured film anyway, it doesn’t really help to not be able to see things properly. I like the production design mostly though. Vlad’s suit of armour he finally puts on does look pretty cool and some of the other costumes look pretty good. But that doesn’t really save the film from mediocrity.
The problem with this film is the same problem a lot of films have these days. They ruin the mystery of something cool by giving it an origin it didn’t need, that isn’t as great as it should be and then try to make it a more generic movie so that it can make more money. That’s fine, I get it. But the cool thing about Dracula is that he’s really scary and you don’t know everything about him. Making him a hero, giving him a full origin story and then sticking him in an action film doesn’t seem to do the character justice in my opinion. And that’s probably why this film didn’t do all that well and why it won’t be kicking off a Universal monster universe anymore. It just doesn’t do what it should as well as it should.
JACK’S SCORE: 2/5