Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: "Dracula Untold" is a Pretty Thing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

Dracula Untold (2014)
Running time:  92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of warfare, vampire attacks, disturbing images, and some sensuality
DIRECTOR:  Gary Shore
WRITERS:  Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (based on characters created by Bram Stoker)
PRODUCER:  Michael De Luca
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  John Schwartzman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Richard Pearson
COMPOSER:  Ramin Djawadi


Starring:  Luke Evans, Sarah Gordon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Dairmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley, Ferdinand Kingsley, Joseph Long, Thor Kristjansson, Ronan Vibert, and Zach McGowan

Dracula Untold is a 2014 action-fantasy and vampire film from director Gary Shore.  This film's screenplay, written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, takes the title character for Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula (1897), and real-life historical figure, Vlad the Imapler, and combines them.  The two writers re-imagine both the fictional story of Count Dracula and the true story of Vlad.  Dracula Untold focuses on a young prince who must become a monster to save his people from a massive army.  Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures is one of this film's executive producers.

Dracula Untold is narrated by a man who proceeds to tell the story of  Vlad the Impaler, the prince of Wallachia and Transylvania.  When Vlad was a boy, he was a royal hostage of Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper), the ruler of the Ottoman Empire.  Vlad was trained to be a soldier in the Sultan's elite Janissary Corps, and he became their most feared warrior.  He earned the nickname “Vlad the Impaler,” because of the methods by which he slaughtering thousands.

In 1442, the adult Vlad (Luke Evans) now rules his people.  He is a husband to his wife, Mirena (Sarah Gordon), and a father to his young son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson).  Vlad rules his kingdom in peace, but it seems that the Turks of the Ottoman Empire now want more from him than gold and jewels as tribute.  They want boys who can become soldiers, as Vlad once was, and the Sultan even demands that Vlad turn Ingeras over to him.

Vlad does not want use his son or any other boy as tribute to Mehmed II, but he is powerless against the Sultan's army which is tens of thousands strong.  However, deep in the mysterious Broken Tooth Mountain hides a creature (Charles Dance) that can give Vlad the power he needs to defeat the Ottoman Empire.  Is Vlad willing to pay the ultimate price for the power that will turn him into the legendary vampire, Dracula?

Over many decades of watching movies, I have gradually come to understand and admire aspects of film-making that I had once not understood.  I love high production values, which is why I am a fan of costume dramas and periods films.  I love beautiful cinematography and gorgeous production design and art direction.  I have come to appreciate costume design, especially in the last decade.  Another aspect at which I am paying more attention is the work of movie make-up and hair artists.

In Dracula Untold, the costume designers and especially the make-up artists stand out.  I can't remember a film in which I have seen so many good looking people, not just the well-dressed royals but also the regular folks, soldiers, and peasants.  Honestly, I wouldn't mind wearing the well-designed “rags” worn by the poor folks in this movie.  Thanks to make-up and hair, many characters in this movie are too pretty to die, especially the super-gorgeous Mehmed II played by Dominic Cooper and one of Mehmed's assassins, the lethally beautiful “Bright Eyes,” portrayed by Thor Kristjansson.

I won't lie; I thoroughly enjoyed Dracula Untold, but it is not a particularly good movie.  Thanks to costume, make-up and hair, and Luke Evans as such a handsome Dracula this movie manages to be a little more than it should be.  However, Evans is not a particularly memorable Dracula.  In fact, there is not much imagination in the re-imagining of this Dracula.  I am giving Dracula Untold a high rating because of the costumes and make-up and hair, which are still dazzling me days after I saw the movie.  The beauty in the production values of Dracula Untold makes it stand-out, even if it is neither a stand-out Dracula film nor a particularly imaginative vampire film.

7 of 10

Saturday, April 25, 2015

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