Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: "Dracula Untold" (2014)

Movie"Dracula Untold"
Director: Gary Shore
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
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Long ago, the Turkish Sultan demanded 1,000 boys from Transylvania to be raised as soldiers for his army. These boys were tortured and turned into hardened killing machines. One boy named Vlad Dracula (Luke Evans) grew up to be one of the best soldiers in the army. He was so vicious that he was dubbed Vlad the Impaler. He was released from the Turkish army and became prince of Transylvania. After many years of ruling his kingdom in peace, the new Turkish Sultan, Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) demands another 1,000 boys for his army, including Vlad's son. When Vlad refuses, it brings war to Transylvania. The massively outnumbered Vlad seeks the help of a creature (Charles Dance) that lives in the nearby mountains. This creature feeds Vlad his blood and turns him to a vampire, giving him the power to combat the Sultan's army. These powers are temporary and Vlad will return to being human after three days, that is if he can resist the insatiable thirst and not drink blood. If Vlad ever feeds, he will remain a vampire ~*forever~*

Well, at least this was better than "I, Frankenstein."

In the off chance that we miss or intentionally skip a film released on the big screen, it is usually consistent with something of this nature: it favors CGI in lieu of practical sets, settings, animals, monsters, or even humans; it has really broad, sweeping story and employs not the greatest actors; it features a character that has been portrayed a million times before and is, for some inexplicable reason, being rehashed once again; and finally, because it uses all of these above reasons instead of having decent content or any semblance of a plot (See: Pompeii and The Legend of Hercules (the one released earlier this year and without The Rock, you know, the one that didn't make any money). We are ashamed to admit this since we have always been transparent about our necessity to go into a movie without any preconceived notions or expectations and to just watch with an open mind. I don't mind Luke Evans and he's a good enough actor, so we decided to catch this movie last weekend.

Vlad is the only remotely developed character in the film. Though a few other characters have back stories, they are glossed over and most are omitted completely. We never really get invested in Vlad and his want to protect his kingdom, his wife and his son who are just there to fuel the plot, his army that we never really get to know, the people of Transylvania, the Sultan and his vengeance, or anyone at all for that matter, though this is not the type of movie you should see for any sort of emotional connection. In fact, there is one notable death scene where one of Vlad's top soldiers gets killed and this is supposed to be a big deal for Vlad, but as an audience, we just don't care. That is because this character was so underdeveloped he seemed as expendable as an extra. One other random thought: is it just us, or does every single person in any country in Europe always seem to have a British accent on film? Beyond this, there are some really dumb "WTF" moments, like when the Sultan marches his whole army into battle and all the soldiers are blindfolded for some stupid, asinine reason that attempts to give this movie its "TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL!" moment. Also, Vlad's powers are extremely inconsistent throughout the movie, and the final climactic fight is utterly ridiculous, especially when you consider that all he needed to do was use his bats to defeat the Sultan in one freaking second.

Luke Evans does a good enough job with what he has to work with, though it was painfully obvious he was contractually obligated to remove his shirt at least twice during the course of this movie. All of the other actors and actresses are interchangeable and don't have roles worth mentioning, with the exception of Charles Dance as Master Vampire. He was aided heavily by his deep and menacing voice, as well a naturally sinister look and creepy makeup work. And speaking of that, the prosthetic work done on this film is not so terrible, and the Master Vampire manages to look very scary. Also, most of the visual effects throughout its short enough run time are rather good, with one notable exception. The director chose to showcase one specific battle scene through the reflection on a sword, which sounds like a cool idea on paper, but drags on for far too long in actuality. Though it really only lasts about 30 seconds, it feels like it is a much longer scene.

A story like this, one that that tells a slightly different version of the origin of some thing (that is typically a public domain character), should be intriguing, dramatic, and an actual deviation from the origin, not just something barely changed and nearly identical to another film (IE: "Bram Stoker's Dracula"). Much of the problem with this movie is that, once again, filmmakers decided to target a younger core audience in an effort to make it appeal to the masses instead of keeping Dracula where he belongs: in the R rating. There are a lot of things wrong with this movie, but it's definitely not worse than we were expecting or the worst CGI-bomb we have seen this year.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 23%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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