Dracula Untold Blu-ray review
“His subjects called him Prince. I called him Father. But the world would come to know him as…Dracula.”
It’s the mid-15th century and Vlad (Luke Evans, who played Aramis in 2011’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS) has been home for years since serving for the Turkish Army. In his time in battle, he earned the nickname The Impaler, for reasons that should be clear. Following the war, he retreated to a castle in Transylvania.
While in a cave, Vlad and two of his men are attacked by a creature that he suspects was a wolf. In time, he learns that the creature was indeed—no, not a mummy—a vampire. Around the same time, Turkish sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper, NEED FOR SPEED) announces that he will need 1,000 boys to serve as soldiers, plus one more: Vlad’s son, Ingeras (Art Parkinson, who played Rickon Stark in the first three seasons of GAME OF THRONES). Knowing his power is limitless against Mehmed, he returns to the cave, where he encounters Master Vampire (Charles Dance, who portrays Twyin Lannister on GAME OF THRONES). It’s there that Master Vampire offers Vlad a stretch of power (the strength of a hundred men, the speed of a falling star…), which will expire in three days unless he drinks human blood. Cue the battle sequence, which finds Vlad slaying (exactly?) 1,000 attackers.
DRACULA UNTOLD is not an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, but rather an origin story. Such movies can waste time in establishing a character the audience is already familiar with (especially Dracula, who has appeared in hundreds of movies). But DRACULA UNTOLD runs just 93 minutes and the story and action is constantly moving. This fresher take on the character is inviting, but fans may not find it so enticing.
There seems to be a certain goal in mind in greenlighting such movies; it’s not so much to develop human characteristics and flesh out the roots as it is to gear up an audience so they’ll want to see more and thus create a new studio franchise.
The problem there is that Universal Monster reboots just aren’t doing what they need to be doing, which is partly why THE WOLFMAN failed in 2010 and I, FRANKENSTEIN (although not a Universal production, still linked to the canon) has a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. If filmmakers put more focus on what made these characters succeed (personality, exquisite lead performances and the like) and heightening the scare factor, these movies could work in the 21st century.
Despite a passable score (by Ramin Djawadi, whose other credits include PACIFIC RIM and the FRIGHT NIGHT remake) and some appropriately moody sets and scenery, Gary Shore’s debut, DRACULA UNTOLD, is a failure. There is not enough gore (which can be blamed on the PG-13 rating), the battle sequences are cluttered, the special effects that don’t do much for the thrills and it doesn’t gear up the intended audience for the intended franchise.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Although the crispness sometimes expose the special effects, this high-definition transfer boasts excellent details, strong colors and deep blacks that enhance that the atmosphere of DRACULA UNTOLD.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1; French DTS Digital Surround 5.1. The sound quality is stellar, with effects and a score that roar through surround speakers.
Feature commentary with director Gary Shore and production designer François Audouy: Shore and Audouy offer an unremarkable commentary in which they broadly reflect on the production.
Luke Evans: Creating a Legend (19:46): Star Evans discusses how he came onto the project and lays out character and plot details.
Day in the Life – Luke Evans (10:05): This featurette observes Evans’ early wakeup, preparations and work on the set.
Dracula Retold (6:55): This featurette covers the historical aspects of Vlad the Impaler.
Slaying 1000 (5:02): One of the key battle sequences in the movie is detailed using on-set footage and interviews.
The Land of Dracula: This neat interactive map houses brief featurettes in four locations: Cozia Monastery, Borgo Pass, Castle Dracula and Broken Tooth Mt.
Deleted Scenes (13:10): There are six here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Vlad Finds Scattered Turkish Armor,” “Vilalge – Babayaga,” “Vlad Mesmerizes Ismail,” “Mehmed Kills Ismail,” “Vlad & Mirena: Blood Thirst” and “Vlad & Cazan: Dead Boys.” Optional commentary is available.
Alternate Opening (2:11) with optional commentary.