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Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

More action than accuracy in ‘Dracula Untold’

(Gwydion Williams/Flickr)
(Gwydion Williams/Flickr)

“Dracula Untold,” directed by Gary Shore, provides an interesting synthesis of Bram
Stoker’s original “Dracula” and the history of Vlad Drăculea, upon whom the novel was based. The film depicts the origins of Vlad Dracula (Luke Evans), his conflict with the Ottomans and his resulting decision to become a lord of the night. While I was expecting to walk into a major flop, I found that the movie was entertaining, interesting and deserving of more praise than it has received.

I am a fan of stories that put a new spin on classic villains. I believe that no person is born evil and thus enjoy stories that show how one digresses into corruption and malice, especially if it’s a well-known master of darkness and magic. However, I walked into the cinema prepared with lines to describe a truly awful film. By the end I had crossed them out.

This was by no means a spectacular movie, but it was certainly an engaging one. The pro-tagonist’s depiction as a flawed yet virtuous hero, rather than the typical, egregious belief that Vlad Dracula was a psychopath, was engrossing. However, the historical inaccuracies regarding the Ottomans were as distracting as the lack of character development and the cardboard cutout villains were disappointing. Evans portrayed Vlad as a conflicted ruler who battles with the guilt of letting all that he loves perish. Though he tried valiantly to display depth and self-reflexivity in the character, Evans did not have much to work with, as no significant character change was scripted. Vlad Dracula remained much the same throughout the film except for gaining a pen-chant for vengeance toward the end.

I was glad to see the director recognize that Vlad was a local hero who staked his ene-mies as a form of psychological warfare rather than for sadistic pleasure. On the other hand, the Ottomans were demonized and came off as cruel, arrogant, and a little idiotic. They were unin-teresting conquerors and villains. We saw nothing of their fascinating culture, none of the archers and musketeers that made them famous, and none their cultural awareness. The real Ottomans weren’t monsters, as this film would have us believe. The real monster in the film, known only as the Master Vampire (Charles Dance), who we see for only a few minutes, was probably the most captivating character in the whole film. Dance underplayed this imprisoned demon of shadow, not resorting to stereotypical malevolence. His presence exuded confidence despite his frail appearance, which was intimidating, and he spoke softly and reasonably. Too seldom do we see villains and demons portrayed in such a way. Dance’s small performance here excites me to see the sequel in which he will play a major role.

The film was visually arresting in every way, from the costumes and the special effects to the mix of realistic and fantastical fight choreography. The cinematic landscapes of the film seemed like a gothic version of Middle Earth and, when watching the marching enemies, many of the sweeping shots and camera angles were reminiscent of films like “300.” While the battle scenes borrowed from similar films, Shore brought his own flair to them. During the first major battle in which Vlad exercised his newfound powers, the camera transitioned smoothly between slow and stationary shots to fast and fluid panning shots before snapping back to tracking closeups of the action. One of the standout sequences of the film featured the reflection of the battle in a dying soldier’s sword as it flew from his hand. Through the shimmering blade we watched Vlad slaughter dozens of enemies, each turn of the sword reflecting a new, interesting angle before Vlad picks it up himself. Between Evans’s acting and Jason Schwartzman’s cinema-tography, Vlad’s demonic viciousness became a tangible sensation.

“Dracula Untold” made no pretense about being a hard-hitting drama and it fulfilled all of its promises as a dark, over-the-top fantasy-action popcorn movie. However, it deserves more appreciation than what it has received from critics and “Rotten Tomatoes,” as it should not be taken as a reinterpretation of the classic book or history.If you’re looking for a fun action flick, then “Dracula Untold” will surely slake your thirst.

Matthew Hlady can be reached at [email protected].

(Gwydion Williams/Flickr)
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  • A

    ArmenianGuerillaFeb 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Movie is stupid in terms of showing romanians and turks handsome good looking people. truth is both romanians and turks are subhumans, romanians are gypsies and turks are brainless ugliest stinky uneducated illiterate negro subhuman people they are definitely nowhere close to white. Only good part of the movie seeing stupid turks die like cockroaches. enjoyed it.

  • C

    CristiNov 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Nice review.
    I am glad you appreciate the “psychological warfare” aspect of the actions of Vlad Dracul.
    But to say that “The real Ottomans weren’t monsters” and they were “demonized”….
    Do you know what the Turks have done (as all the conquerors in history) to local people ? How many women where raped, how many children killed or worst? Do you know how the sons of the “king” killed each other for the throne. You write from the comfort of you chair, but trust me, if you were to live in those days (or even now in some God forsaken countries) you would be terrified when Turks knocked on your door.
    This movie actually made me proud of the Dracula Myth, unlike all other incarnations, for being somewhat close the the historical facts (for a fantasy anyway).

    PS. My last 3 vacations I went in Turkey. A few hundred years ago they come to us to take our money, now we go to them to spend it. How the world turns.

    Cristi, Romania.