Director: Gary Shore
Cast: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Art Parkinson
Rating: One and a half star
The back-story flicks of mega popular icons should be a genre unto themselves. From The Godfather II to Batman Begins, establishing the history of a legend to put in perspective why a hero or an anti-hero becomes who he is, can be rather difficult. People have already embraced the icon so the back-story needs to be convincing and generally speaking, engrossing.
Sadly, Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold is neither. The film, with an overbearing grey hue and not much blood for a story about the rise of a blood-sucker is dour, one-dimensional and has some intensely contrived moments. Shore pitches Dracula as Vlad the Impaler, an anti-hero who makes a deal with a vampire to save his kingdom. Nothing Faustus about it, but very Batman-ish. The film opens with the Irish Vlad’s son’s very British accented voiceover, recounting the history surrounding the Dracula legend and his committed narration of an untold humane side to a world-renowned monster.
The Sultan of Turkey picked young boys from around the world to turn them into fearless, cold-hearted soldiers. Young Vlad too got selected, earned the reputation of being the Impaler for his mercilessly extermination of opponents and eventually managed to escape from his duty as a soldier. In the process, he was made the Prince of Transylvania and lived a life of much comfort and care. He was loving husband to Mirena and a doting father to Ingeras, and pretty much formed a picture far removed from the legend that’s perpetuated over the years. But when he was angered by atrocity and connivance, Vlad became almost Hulk-like (in temper, not size or colour).
In one of his many encounters, Vlad and his men meet an ancient sorcerer and master vampire who single-handedly kills the troupe, provoking Vlad to escape. On a later date when Vlad is almost overpowered by a Turkish army, he reaches out to the master vampire in the hopes of acquiring his strength in combating the crisis. The vampire cautions him of the risks of such a deal and then goes on to offer Vlad some of his blood that then infuses him with the powers of the night. The Master Vampire explains that this power will last for three days, during which time Vlad will be tempted to drink human blood, but if he can withstand the urge for all three days he will be restored to his human form, also warning Vlad that, if he accepts his curse and drink another’s blood, he will be released from his prison.
That said, the story follows Vlad’s struggle to save his people and the conflict that he experiences while trying not to succumb to blood-sucking temptations. The synopsis aside, the film is rather drab and while Luke Evans’ efforts to play the anti-hero show, they are not convincing enough to endure for the better half of the film. Shore tries to tug at our heartstrings by making Vlad the man with a heart who makes a choice to save his people at the cost of being relegated to villainy forever. Yet it does little to hold our attention and is nothing more than one long, excruciating yawn that does not result in good sleep either.
Evans plays Dracula as an action star, and not the creepy one and deserves some points for trying to break the mould that the Transylvanian prince has been cast in. The film is not a patch on the Francis Ford Coppola predecessor and can easily be missed for a night about town.