Count Dracula, created by Bram Stoker for his 1897 novel but based on the Voivode of Wallachia Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, is undeniably one of the most influential fictional characters of all time, having brought focus to the vampire in fiction and setting many of the rules which are still evident more than a century later in such shows as True Blood, while also having been adapted directly or indirectly for stage, radio, television, cinema, comics and games quite literally hundreds of times over. Few of these have been even relatively faithful to the text of Stoker’s work, with most being sequels or spinoffs, and to seek a new approach to Dracula is to travel a well worn road to the land beyond the trees. Few, however, have looked beyond the novel to the circumstances which inspired it with only Francis Ford coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula including a back story of love and war in the Carpathians, but this is what Dracula Untold hopes to do.
Directed by Gary Shore from a screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless with an estimated budget of $100 million, it was originally to be directed by Alex Proyas in Australia under the name Dracula: Year Zero, but was eventually produced in Northern Ireland. Luke Evans has taken the title role, most recently seen by genre fans in The Hobbit, and the cast includes The Eleventh Hour‘s Sarah Gadon, Captain America‘s Dominic Cooper, Alien 3‘s Charles Dance and Stardust‘s Charlie Cox, with a soundtrack by Game of Thrones‘ Ramin Djawadi. The first trailer has just been released, and the team have expressed their opinions.
Adam Dworak – Brilliant, just brilliant! It finally feels like someone is following Coppola’s footsteps and trying to fill in the gaps in the story of Dracula. Maybe it is just my love of Coppola’s creation but Dracula Untold feels to me like Bram Stoker’s Dracula especially in its visual style. From the trailer we can clearly see that Dracula Untold will be another Maleficent, which I loved, retelling an old story but doing it with a twist!
I know that what I am going to say next will be for many a big putt of regarding this movie, but it seems most of all nothing else but the game Castelvania Lords of Shadow transferred onto the silver screen, which for me as a gamer is a final reward. Some scenes look like they’re taken directly from a video game – “Press X to use the Fist of Bats!” Wasn’t that moment awesome?
Finally, as an old grouch I don’t like when someone is tinkering with “my monsters” too much, so it’s nice to see a classic vampire rather than a sparkling clown.
Les Anderson – Not one iota of originality in the visuals. All the CGI work has been borrowed from other films, particularly the massed ranks. I was occasionally reminded of Van Helsing. That is not a compliment.
Michael Flett – It looks epic fantasy, more Game of Thrones than horror, and Luke and Dominic are guaranteed to be good, but it feels too modern, too epic – Dracula is shown more like a superhero or supervillain than the story Stoker told and certainly historical events weren’t like this.
If there had been a supernatural tyrant, even in distant lands, it would have been a story passed down in folk tales, Harker would have heard about it. And giant swarms of bats slamming into armies… it looks better than I, Frankenstein, but that’s not saying much. And the soundtrack is uber modern and trendy, at odds with what the film is trying to sell. I understand why, because they have to appeal to the audience of attention deficit youngsters, but I don’t buy it.
Despite the beautiful costumes, sets and locations, it feels like a mishmash, ticking demographic boxes rather than a genuinely crafted film, and is it just me or is the entire film in this trailer? It’s interesting that the name Baba Yaga is listed in the characters, as that’s from a mythology further east, so it looks like the writers are at least spreading their wings a bit to look for wider inspiration.
Luke Evans is my primary reason for seeing this; Immortals was a hugely disappointing film, but he was great in it, and he was by far the best thing in The Ravenand one of the best things in The Hobbit – the man can do no wrong.
The director has one short film under his belt, and my fear looking at this is he’s another guy who thinks playing videogames is the same as understanding cinema, but as a hired hand for a major studio, how much say he would have had in creative direction is debatable – Universal are the studio who inflicted Van Helsing upon the world, a two hour showcase of frankly appalling specical effects which forgot that the film drives the theme park, not the other way around, and was an embarrassment to everyone involved.
It’s also untrue to call this Dracula Untold; in the late nineties Jeanne Kalogridis released a trilogy of novels, collectively The Diaries of the Family Dracul, detailing the downfall of the family and the decimation of the valley they called home as they were involved in war and struck by famine. But then, we don’t expect Hollywood to tell the truth.
Garry Mac – Well bugger me. I expected this to look complete mince – I thought we’d get another Underworld / Frankenstein / Van Helsing mudfest, but this actually looks half decent. Dracula meets Game of Thrones was my first thought (before Charles Dance even showed up in the trailer), and I’m all over a film telling a partly sympathetic tale about old Vlad. But it’s not a cinema outing for me unfortunately, I’ll wait for DVD.
Matthew Rutland – Dracula Untold. so for a start that just isn’t true, and its’ also a terrible name for a film. Dracula: Dead and Lovi
ng It was a better title, hell, even Vampire in Brooklyn is better.
And that’s the point, the title itself is a misnomer, as every tale of Count Vlad has been told. From the classic Bela Lugosi, to the genre defining Hammer Horrors of Cushing and Lee; even the more modern tales of Count Duckula up to the even worse vegetarian Edward from Twilight, zombies and vampires are the Hollywood go-to staples when looking for anything that isn’t a rom-com or reboot these days, and the genre has become more stale and foetid than sleeping in any crypt could be.
As for the trailer itself, well, it starts as most films do these days with the promise of something Inception-esque, from the Legendary symbol through to the foreboding bass line music that seems to permeate every trailer these days. Sadly, from that point on it rapidly degenerates into a throwaway film that glosses over the eyes and will be forgotten before you have left the cinema, the kernels of popcorn stuck in the blunted fangs lasting longer.
So we immediately have to suspend disbelief as we see our protagonist decimate an entire legion of soldiers single-handedly, presumably before he has any other-worldly powers bestowed upon him, yet when the king’s men demand his son be taken from him to fight in some war, we find our brooding anti hero developing a darker persona and voyaging to a mountainside to become more powerful, to return and wreak vengeance on those who would corrupt the peace of his home. In a dark and gritty way. With lots of dark blues, greys and blacks in the colour scheme. And bats.
Wait, did I just describe Batman Begins? No, surely this is an original idea? Wait, this is clearly Batman. In fact I don’t know how it could be more Batman, unless they change our hero’s name to Bruce. Like when the alternate universe Batman is Thomas Wayne to protect his son, this is the feel of this cheap knocked out for the summer crowd movie. Luke Evans appears to be doing an impression of Heath Ledger in A Knights Tale, poor disinterested Dominic Cooper must be wondering how he gets these roles, and this tiresome version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World is being overused on every pre-teen drama on TV these days (performed by the highly over-rated Lorde), but since this is being billed as a horror, presumably with at least a 15 rating, I’m not sure who the target demographic is. Not even some gratuitious nudity will save this from flopping at every market it aims for much like the similarly maligned Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
I am guessing this is being slated for release in early autumn to cash in on a quieter film period, but i dont think that should save it from bombing abysmally. Luis Suarez’ antics in the World Cup seem a more faithful and entertaining rendition of Dracula than this could muster. I only fear that if not killed properly this time, it will come back stronger, as this being an origin story tends to point towards series rather than solo film. In that eventuality the only use for Holy Water is to be brewed into some very strong coffee to have to sit through such dross.