Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review: Dracula Untold

DRACULA, a name that has haunted popular culture ever since author Bram Stoker published his gothic-horror classic in 1897. Since then, Dracula has appeared in over 200 films beginning in the 1920's. The latest incarnation of the immortal vampire comes from Universal Pictures, the same film company who produced the classic Dracula (1931) film starring Bela LugosiDracula Untold presents a much different view of the Dark Prince, based (somewhat loosely) on history rather than any literary or film source. Starring Luke Evans as Prince Vlad of Transylvania, who is forced to pay a hefty tribute in exchange for a shaky peace with the Turkish Sultan, Mehmed (Dominic Cooper). When the Sultan demands one thousand boys for his army, including Vlad's own son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), Vlad defies him, thus incurring the wrath of the Turks! Desperately seeking the means to defend his family, including his wife Mirena (Sarah Gordon) and his people from the invading Turks, Vlad encounters an ancient Vampire (Charles Dance) who offers him great power, but at a terrible price! Although cursed to become a vampire, Vlad possesses great, dark powers, but if he can resist his blood-thirst for three days, he will return to normal, if not he will be cursed for all eternity. Although he now has the power to defeat the Sultan's army, he is in danger of not only losing his humanity, but his soul as well. Will Vlad be able to control the darkness within him, or will it consume him forever?
Dracula Untold presents moviegoers with a much more sympathetic monster, with Dracula depicted as a dark, anti-hero. Welsh actor Luke Evans (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)) seems an interesting choice to play Dracula, having appeared in several big budgeted fantasy/action movies and has even portrayed two Greek Gods: Zeus in Immortals (2011) and Apollo in Clash of the Titans (2010). Instead of the suave, tuxedo-clad, Dracula audiences have come to know over the years, this Dracula is a seemingly young and handsome, similar to previous incarnations such as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) played by Gary Oldman, or even the sexy Dracula 2000 (2000) played by Gerard Butler. Although there have been past attempts to depict the more historical figure of Dracula, such as in the prologue to the 1992 Dracula or even in the made-for-TV movie Dark Prince (2000), Dracula Untold gives us a much kinder and gentler Dracula, even as so far to show him as a dedicated  husband and father. Despite all the blood and violence, the movie surprisingly retains a PG-13 rating. Also much of the movie is in the perspective of his young son, as he is featured as the narrator of the story.
The real historical figure of Dracula, known as Vlad Tepes, aka "The Impaler", was a 15th century Romanian prince, infamous for his brutal reputation for extreme cruelty. His father Vlad Dracul, II, was a member of the 'Order of the Dragon', a group of knights dedicated to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. The real Dracula was in fact NOT a vampire; merely a "bloodthirsty" despot, yet he is revered as a hero in many parts of Romania. There has been much speculation over the years in  separating the legend from history and although Stoker's novel did little to dispel the myth, Dracula, will forever be synonymous with vampires.
Dracula Untold presents a fresh, new perspective on the Dracula legend, turning the bloodsucking vampire into a rock star, complete with a tragic back-story and a somewhat believable reason to become what he is destined to become: DRACULA!