Dracula Untold is directed by Gary Shore who makes his debut in feature film. His only other directing credit on IMDB is short called The Draft (2006) which is described as being inspired by 1950’s science fiction B movies. The writing credits go to Matt Sazama and Burk Sharples who are both first timers as well.
The film sets itself up as a retelling of the origins of Dracula romp in a similar mould to Maleficent (2014). The comparisons are unavoidable – in this case Vlad (Luke Evans) is a kind family man who is seeking to protect his Kingdom from the threat of the Turks and the evil Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper). Contrary to what we think of him Vlad is not truly evil and this film is effectively an apologist for Dracula in which we can’t really blame him for what he being driven to do. Needless to say the threat from the Turks must be dealt with (and this is in the trailer) Vlad goes to extreme lengths to win.
You know you’re in trouble when the big bad (yes a Buffyism) is the cut price rent-a-goon Dominic Cooper. He did the same type of thing in Need for Speed (2014), a film that if memory serves made its way into my least favourite films of the first half of the year. Dracula Untold leans heavily on CGI bats and Turk soldiers against forbidding backdrops. We get the whole back story about Vlad the Impaler and Evans is given the chance to explain that by doing what he did he actually saved lives by scaring people into submission. An interesting moral perspective but I don’t care, I don’t see why I should for any of these characters.
It’s sad because I think Luke Evans can be a leading man and did what he could with the material provided. The worst performance award goes to Sarah Gadon as Vlad’s wife, Mirena, who adopts an English accent(?) and in a scene towards the end of the film is remarkably lucid given what has just happened to her. I don’t remember her from anything else but she has appeared in some interesting films such as Belle (2014), Maps to the Stars (2014) and Cosmopolis (2012). Maybe she was beige wallpaper number 2? The most memorable performance comes from Charles Dance who is great value for money as the Master Vampire who turns Vlad.
One of my greatest concerns moving forward (apart from the door being left open for a sequel) is that this film is reportedly part of the new Universal monster film universe that the Studio is trying to create. I hope not because they are going to fail miserably and inflict a lot of pain on movie goers while disrespecting the memories of the classic originals. Back to the drawing board would be my advice.