Have you ever wished that Dracula was a superhero and not a monster that lures unwitting victims to him in order to drink their blood? Well, that’s what you get with Dracula Untold, which, not coincidentally, Universal is hoping will launch a shared universe for their monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy a la Marvel Studios.
Dracula Untold is a conglomeration of several different successful films to create a complete mess that bears little resemblance to the Dracula people have known for over a hundred years. Now, when I say little resemblance, I mean that he feels like a completely different character. The film paints him as a superhero, who like Spider-Man learns that with great power comes great responsibility, but he’s also King Leonidas from 300, defending his people from a great horde of conquerors. Not to stop there, Dracula is also Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars Prequels, who turns into a monster, but for the “right reasons,” of course. The problem is, Dracula was once Vlad the Impaler, who was already a monster—a fact that Dracula never cops to. That’s not to say Dracula doesn’t admit to being Vlad the Impaler—it haunts him—but he never puts two and two together that there is no saving his soul whether he becomes a vampire or not—he was always a monster. What results is a soulless film that exists only to set up a new Dracula franchise for Universal. The studio seems to forget that in the original story, Dracula is the villain. In this movie, though, he’s painted as a guy trying to do the right thing by his people, but, oh yeah, all those people he killed. If they had made him in the mold of Hannibal Lecter, a charismatic villain that the audience hates to root for, but can’t help it, this film might have been more interesting. Instead, the filmmakers just pile on every superhero trope they can think of, trying to make audiences forget that the lead character is both a figurative and literal monster.
The film’s story is fairly pedestrian and gets dumber and dumber as it slogs on. Dracula (Luke Evans) was once a royal hostage of the Turks, forced to fight in their wars where he became Vlad the Impaler—see, he wasn’t such a bad guy; they made him do it! He brokered peace and returned to Transylvania to rule his people. Now the Turks, led by Mahmed II (Dominic Cooper), have returned and Dracula must turn to supernatural forces to save his people. A master vampire (Charles Dance) offers Dracula power in exchange for loyalty and basically turns him into vampire Superman. Some of Dracula’s powers are neat, but I never knew that silver was like kryptonite to him. Oh, I knew he was vulnerable to silver if it touched him, but apparently, if Dracula’s around a whole lot of silver, it makes him weak just like Superman’s least favorite green rock. Y’know, because silver is radioactive, I guess. Remember how I mentioned the film gets dumber as it goes?
Evans is decent as Dracula. He can’t be faulted for the shoddy script by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Cooper’s character is equally stupid as the whole film basically comes down to fighting a war so he can take Dracula’s kid (Art Parkinson). Charles Dance is the best thing about this film, but I’d much rather watch him on Game of Thrones.
Ultimately, despite some decent effects and action sequences, Dracula Untold is dead on arrival. It’s not as laughably stupid as, say, I Frankenstein, but it’s not good either. It’s a shame too, because the premise could have been interesting if the filmmakers hadn’t made it so boring and cliché. Skip this.