Dracula gets a superhero origin story we never wanted with mysterious “untold origins” that we always knew about. Universal Pictures; 2014; Rated PG-13; 92 minutes.
Dracula Schmacula: Somewhere between the lines of I, Frankenstein and Maleficent lies the most mechanical movie of the year. It will make you shout from the rooftops, “Okay, I guess.” Which, if you’ve kept up with my track record for any horror film I’ve reviewed this year, is pretty remarkable. It fits the bill of “franchise building 101” and this weird trend of turning great cinematic villains into sympathetic anti-heroes, but it isn’t completely awful either.
The greatest strength and weakness of this movie is that it only last for about 90 minutes. It doesn’t overstay its unwelcome presence, but it doesn’t last long enough to make much of an impact either. Similar to the Underworld franchise, we never get a sense of these new vampire mythology or characters. Several scenes show Vlad walking around during the day but this world is covered by a perpetual cloudiness. So maybe in this universe, clouds are strong enough to block out UV rays? And whatever happened to this “untold” aspect of the story? We know how he’s going to become Dracula. I’m probably putting more thought into it than writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. They’re far more interested in the action.
Actionula: If you have to watch this movie at some point, know it is not a horror film. It’s an fantasy adventure with lots of CGI action. And just how is the action? It’s fine. It comes across as something out of a videogame with physical weightlessness and thematic emptiness, but it’s visually entertaining enough. The problem lies within the movie never giving us a chance to develop characters beyond their traditional roles to care about them during the action. Vlad has a wife and son. The movie expects us to care about them because they are his family and it would be sad if anything happened to them. If I didn’t recognize the son from Game of Thrones I would have already forgotten what he looked like. Dominic Cooper is also just fine as the villain. There’s little time to go over character dynamics so we have the hero and villain sit down to discuss their history together so the audience can be spoon fed the exposition.
Dracula Should’ve Been Told Better: When Vlad confronts the demonic version of Tywin Lannister he states “Sometimes the world doesn’t need a hero. Sometimes it needs a monster” it would have been nice if we could see the monster unleashed. I can’t stress enough how not good this movie is, all I’m saying is, it could have been worse. If you’re a fan of movies like Underworld or Resident Evil, you might find something to truly enjoy here. But if this really is the beginning of a monster cinematic universe (and the end of the film not-so-subtly implies that) they’ve started on the wrong foot.