Friday, October 10, 2014

Movie Review - Dracula Untold

Dracula Untold

Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley, Ronan Vibert, and more.

Directed by: Gary Shore Written by: Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless Based on Characters Created by: Bram Stoker Cinematography by: John Schwartzman Music by: Ramin Djawadi

Premise: When the Turks demand Vlad adds a thousand children, as well as his son, to their yearly tribute, Vlad Tepes decides it is too dear a price to pay. Killing several Turks, he turns to Broken Tooth Mountain where he'd glimpsed something evil and very powerful. It is this power he hopes to gain to allow him to save his people. Yet the power has a cost. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Luke Evans was perfect for the role - waxing from stern, to concerned, to loving husband and father, to hungry predator with ease. Charles Dance brought great presence to the Master Vampire. Sarah Gadon as Vlad's lovely and perceptive wife, made for a nice foil and wove in well into the themes of light and dark.

2) Special Effects - Thumbs Up: The film had a lot of nice effects. The different ways bats were used were very cool - both in the giant waves and the more personal combat moments. Some neat uses of dark and light as seen through vampiric eyes. The first vaporizing sunlight effect was fantastic. Some of the others weren't as well done, but still looked very good.

There's a nice scene done almost exclusively through the reflections of a sword. What I loved more was the POV being kept on the man holding the sword till his end. A very nice touch.

The art in the priest's book was fantastic! The detail was superb.

3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Down: Is this film in any way historically accurate? Not much. But the fact the supernatural would be involved does give a clue this would be the way of it, so it didn't hinder my interest. Bad writing, however, is a whole other matter.

Aside from Vlad, his wife, and son, there was no development of any of the other characters. The Turks were all cardboard villains. Those around Vlad about the same. And for one or two of them, if you blink while watching the film, you'd miss the only clue to their personalities that you were given.

There was nothing whatsoever to support the request for a thousand children. (If you have an army of over a hundred thousand strong sitting around, what difference would an extra thousand untrained soldiers make?) The fact Vlad and the Turkish ruler had been close friends made the whole thing that much harder to swallow.

Vlad has fought countless wars, created strategies, killed thousands before ever taking on supernatural powers - yet not once were any real tactics or thought, for that matter, ever presented by him. After the slaying of the first group of soldiers once he gained his powers, why didn't he fly straight to the main encampment and kill the ruler in his sleep? The main problem would be gone, his army and people thrown into disarray at the death of their leader, and if they didn't get the hint, he could have come back and slayed the lot without a single fellow countryman ever placed near the danger. I have more on this issue, but will stop here.

The next major affront was the ruler knowing how to combat supernatural Vlad. Since seemingly no one in the country of Transylvania knew about vampires except one priest, how the heck would the Turkish ruler have a clue? The Turks killed everyone they got a hold of. They didn't question or take any prisoners. The one they did take wouldn't hold told them, and didn't know all that much in the first place. And sadder still, they took a being with his incredible power, put him in a place that made him weak, and instead of having him step outside, pick up a spear, and using his magnified senses and superhuman strength to torpedo it through the cloth and into the chest of his enemy, you have him stay inside and "fight" it out. (Yes, they did do some cool things with visuals during that fight, but still...)  

And last, but not least, why the heck would Turkish scouts go to the most desolate mountain to scout for a possible invasion anyway? Now, if they'd mentioned the Turkish ruler having heard rumors of who was trapped there and wanted it investigated to see if he could give himself power, that could have been a fun angle. But, alas, no...

No real surprises or plot twists other than the delectable bit at the end. (Though I realized later that shot was all in sublight - so...huh????)

4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of fancy and destructive stunts by real people and CGI. Integration of both were pretty flawless, making for lots of combat fun. There is some shaky cam action, which always feels like a cheap tactic to me, but most of it wasn't, so that was good.

5) Locations/Cinematography - Thumbs Up: Lots of lovely sweeping views from above or panning shots over open fields in the day and the night. It all plays beautifully with the CGI bats. The land looks mostly unspoiled by people, making for lovely terrain shots and closeups.

My one complaint was the lack of Transylvanian/Wallachian style to the castle or monastery. Wallachia and other Carpathian locations have their own look and local flavor. Yet none of that really came across in the film. They just seemed typical, generic. Too bad.

Conclusion: If you turn of your logic circuits and possibly a couple of others, "Dracula - Untold" is an entertaining film. Some cool special effects and fight scenes as well as some great acting on the part of Lucas Evans, Sarah Gadon, and Charles Dance.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price To See Again.)

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