Dracula Untold is yet another vampire movie, this one being an origin story of a superhero Dracula that pulls upon a certain amount of historical events. Vlad (the Impaler) wants to protect his family and the rest of Transylvania from the vengeful invading Turks… which he can’t do without, you know, turning himself into a blood-sucking vampire. To borrow an Internet meme, “that escalated quickly”… one moment he stands up to a group of Turk soldiers and the next thing you know, he’s selling his soul to the forces of darkness.
This, unfortunately, is the key problem to this rather bad movie. It never takes time to breath… it keeps pushing forward without any emotion, pathos, or even sense of gothic darkness or horror. There were so many missed opportunities to tell this story well but it always took the flat, boring route. It could have been better if it had chosen to be dark, over-the-top, gothic, flowery, tragic, campy, or pretty much anything other than what it was. It could have given its side-characters personalities and motivation, given us something florid and romantic between Vlad and his wife instead of dull and predictable, it could have given the invading Turk army a personality other than “bad guy”. In fact, I figured it’d have been a much more interesting movie if the invading Turks saw Vlad/Drac as evil and thought they were the good guys… but no, they were just bad guys.
Another huge problem here is that Dracula is an overpowered superhero from the minute he takes on his first army (he kills a thousand soldiers by himself) which makes for some rather flat drama. Dude can turn himself into a crowd of exploding bats, run super fast, fly, and heal instantly… he’s Superman and his kryptonite is silver (in a scene lifted directly from a Superman movie). In case I wasn’t clear, Dracula is a hero here… and he’s probably supposed to be tragic hero or a mopey goth hero forced to be evil to do good but the movie can’t pull any of that off.
As an aside, this was a surprising Game of Thrones cast reunion… Vlad’s son was played by the ever-missing Rikkon Stark (the youngest Stark that everyone kind of forgets) and the vampire that turns Vlad is played by Charles Dance… aka Tywin Lannister (Papa Lannister).
And a second aside, Universal Studios is intent upon turning it’s stable of classic monsters (Dracula, Wolf-Man, Invisible Man, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.) into a interconnected franchise like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie had last minute extra scenes filmed to turn it into an intro to this new franchise. And I’m pretty sure it ruined what was a better, more tragic ending by adding a cheap Hollywood ending and a scene that made no sense thematically. If this had been a Marvel movie, it’d have been a post-credit scene and more tolerable but I suspect the studio realized no one was going to sit through these credits. And they were right.