#REVIEW: “DRACULA UNTOLD”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) rules Transylvania cautiously. He is scarred from abuse at the hands of the Turkish Empire – a Group he wants to keep his family well away from. But as their invading forces demand Children to help build their army, Vlad turns to an unlikely source for help: a Master Vampire (Charles Dance) who promises superhuman strength and abilities. But they come at a rather steep price.
The Dracula story has been retold many times, but Untold by first-time director Gary Shore adds a few new twists and elements to the Tale. He puts a lot of emphasis on visual details, allowing the Set Design and costuming to become something truly special. The Special Effects are just as good, and the Make-Up is even better. This is a modestly budgeted Production that does not throw a lot of punches, but it looks terrific and even better than some higher-budget Films. While I want to praise the lack of 3D, some of the shots indicate the Filmmakers may have initially been planning for it.
Performance wise, everyone does pretty well. The Script does not ask very much of her, but Toronto-beauty Sarah Gadon is great as always in her first real studio role (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 notwithstanding). Dominic Cooper makes the most of his underdeveloped villain, while Evans does a wonderful job carrying the Film in his first lead performance. But they all seem to be rather uniformly serious and stoic in their portrayals – whereas Dance seems to be having a blast in his small but significant Role, chewing scenery while covered in layers of makeup. His enthusiasm is the most enjoyable element of the new tale, and I wish he had more to do than hang out in a dark cave.
But the main problem with Dracula Untold lies solely with how choppy it feels. We are thrust right into the Story immediately as the Film opens with basically no set-up or explanation. We are introduced to numerous Subplots and Supporting Characters quickly after. But very few of these subplots get resolved, and even less of the supporting characters have anything to do outside of helping with the Film’s heavy amount of exposition. Some scenes look like they have been genuinely pieced together from different shoots, and others seem to have been partially or fully excised. It gives the Film a rather odd balance, and makes the rather short 92-minute runtime (including an obviously re-shot ending hinting at the future Universal Monsters Film Franchise) seem destined for a lengthy Extended Cut Blu-ray.
I did not dislike Dracula Untold, but the Film just feels dull. There seem to have been good intentions all around as it looks great and the performances are good. But it is a nearly bloodless affair that seems too afraid to take any chances. It could have been something genuinely interesting if it did, and may have been better suited to a Mini-Series or TV Show.
Universal Pictures Canada release DRACULA UNTOLD on Friday, October 10, 2014.