HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Dracula Untold
HTS Overall Score:82
Ah yes, good old Dracula. One time, long ago, vampires were creatures to be feared. Their stories used to terrify the young ones and a myriad of movies were created in honor of the legendary villain. Recently we have seen an uptick in vampire stories, but most of them dedicated to the “coolness” factor of vamps. “Blade” hovered directly on the line, both vilifying and having us cheer for one at the same time. With “Twilight”, “Underworld”, etc. we have chosen muscular creatures that now act almost like superheroes. The 1939 rendition of “Dracula” stands as a testament to time itself, just as much a classic today as it was 66 years ago. This version, unfortunately doesn’t have strong enough legs to do that. While I must admit, I did enjoy it as an action movie, the retooling of Dracula could have used a few more editors and some script re-writes in order to gain a full approval from myself.
We are introduced to Vlad the impaler (Luke Evans) at a young age. A prince of Transylvania, he was sold into indentured servitude to be raised as a warrior in the Turk army. A tribute, as it were, from one king to his master. 20 years later Vlad returns home, after becoming the feared impaler that has been written about for centuries. Dedicated to peace, Vlad gives up his suit of armor and takes his rightful place as leader of Transylvania. Things are going well, he has a beautiful wife, Marina (Sarah Gahdon), and a young son (played by Art Parkinson). This is all to be disturbed when Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), king of the Turks, asks for 1,000 children to be raised as Turkish soldiers, just like Vlad was. Refusing to comply, Vlad dooms his people to death at the hands of the powerful Turkish army, unless he can find a way to defeat them.
Seeking out a cave that may hold the key to his people’s survival, Vlad makes a terrible pact with the vampire within. Drink his blood and gain a taste of the powers that he wields, but if he so much as tastes human blood in the next three days, the transformation is complete and Vlad will become a monster for eternity. Coming home to Transylvania, Vlad lays waste to the Turk army, slaughtering them by the thousands, much to the horror and amazement of the people around him. As the three day period goes by, Mehmed keeps throwing men at him, leaving the almost vampire desperate to finish this war before the third day is up and his powers flee him. As you can expect by who the main hero is, the three days come to an end with his son taken captive and his wife killed before his very eyes. Now at this point there’s nothing left to lose, except his soul of course, and Vlad does exactly what he promised himself not to do. Drink human blood. Now immortal forever and commanding the full power of a lord vampire, the newly dubbed Dracula unleashes his full power and rage on Mehmed for taking everything he held dear in life.
For the first two acts I was willing to sit back and really enjoy the movie. This was a much different take on the Dracula tale, but it was at that guilty pleasure level of fun. Vlad the impaler was sympathetic, and the inclusion of Old Man Lannister…..errrrrr….Charles Dance, as the turner of the legendary monster was quite well done. It was obvious from the get go that this was supposed to be the start of a series of films based upon Dracula. The discussion in the cave about the vampire who turned Dracula’s maker set that up quite nicely, and before I go on I must say that I REALLY hope that they do continue on with a sequel, because the possibilities are endless with multiple immortals crossing for an epic battle. The problems with the movie started in the first and second act, but really became obvious in the third act as the movie just tries too hard to be a frenetic action movie and plot be hanged. There are some egregious jumps in logic that really twist the mind at times, especially in the whole “master being freed by his successor”. The old vampire who turns Vlad made it clear that if he drank of his blood and then of human blood, he would be freed from the curse (the curse only, not his immortality) and the successor would takes his place at the wheel of punishment, enduring the pain for centuries until he could do the same. However, when Dracula takes his vengeance out on Mehmed, he creates vampiric minions that do the same, but somehow do no free Dracula from his curse. Or how Mehmed somehow knows all about vampire lore and has the perfect trap waiting for him at his army tent. Or WHY a king would be carrying an entire TENT full of silver with him on a battle march? The list goes on. The action is crammed together in that last 30 minute segment and the reason for Dracula’s turning is rather strange, as the person who pushes him over the edge almost forced it on him, rather than having the vampire side of his nature take over. It was as if they REALLY wanted us to root for Vlad, even though we know who he becomes.
Still, the movie itself is a decent action flick. If the script hadn’t taken itself so seriously it probably would have been a lot more fun. The tongue in cheek nature of “Van Helsing” would have been perfect for this one, but the writers made it VERY clear that this was supposed to be a serious take on the lore. I will say that there is a little bit more good than bad in the film. The action sequences are amazing, and even though there’s a bit too much quick camera cuts, the powers that Dracula inherits look stunning on screen. The whole “vampires and bats” thing is taken to a whole new levels as Dracula and can summon thousands of the creatures, change from human to bat at will, and kick butt while doing so. Dominic Cooper tends to be a bit one dimensional, but Luke Evans does a solid job at playing a pre-Dracula version of the hero. We don’t get enough of the REAL Dracula till the very very end, so it’s hard to say how good he would be/will be as a monster in the future. I will say this. Charles Dance as the eons old maker is pure gold, as that man just EXUDES evil and sophisticated at the same time.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=37570[/img]“Dracula Untold” may not be a 5 star movie, but the 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray certainly comes mighty close in that department. The movie is visually striking with a dark blue and black color palette. Mainly bathed in darkness, as Dracula IS a creature of the night, the movie still manages to get some nice scenery in there with the bright red of the dragon armor shining through and the golden hues of Mehmed’s armor lighting up a very dim battlefield. The Transylvanian forest is lush and covered with green, even though shadows lurk at every corner. The dusky castle is smoldering and dim, but still the black levels stay deep and inky, allowing for all the detail to seep through. Fine detail throughout the rest of the film is phenomenal, as you can see every crease and scar on Luke Evan’s face and body, with clothing looking immaculate with every fiber and stitch laid bare for the world to see. The CGI is actually VERY impressive, although the quick cuts of the camera do make it easier to hide any flaws that might be present. It’s a very impressive looking encode, but there are some instances where I noticed some softness, but mostly in heavy CGI sequences (most likely used to disguise said CGI from looking unnatural to the viewer’s eyes)
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=37578[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track stands toe to toe with the stellar video as it is most definitely a powerhouse action track. Just like Dracula himself, the audio rips through the audience, tearing everything up in its wake. Pounding LFE accentuates the aggressive monster and adds some very impressive weight to the track. Surrounds are active at all times, with the swirling bats and creatures of the night sounding as if they were coming from all direction. Throughout the chaos we still can hear, with pinpoint precision, the directionality of the track and even the little ticks and nuances as something crosses from one side of the stage to another. Dialogue is clean and clear, and locked up front, with my only complaint being that there were a few times near the beginning where I felt the vocals were recorded just a TAAAAD low compared to the rest of the track. Once the movie got going that little anomaly cleared up and the vocals balanced very nicely with the rest of the track.
• Alternate Opening with Commentary
• Deleted Scenes With Commentary
• Luke Evans: Creating A Legend
• The Land of Dracula (Interactive Map)
• Day in the Life - Luke Evans
• Dracula Retold
• Slaying 1,000
• Feature Commentary
“Dracula Untold” was hammered at the box office, and that hammering actually caused me to hesitate from watching it theatrically, even though I’m a sucker for a vampire film, horror or not. After watching the home video release I can understand why it was met with such lukewarm reactions. There’s a lot of good in the picture, but the actual handling of the film left a good amount to be desired as well. Hopefully the future holds a much better sequel if the rough edges can be smoothed out and the box office numbers prove enough to warrant the expenditure on such a venture. The audio and video are stunning, and the there’s a solid amount of extras, so fans of the movie shouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. For the rest of you, I’d suggest a rental to decide for yourself as it may not appeal to all.
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon
Directed by: Gary Shore
Written by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 92 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 3rd 2015
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