Dracula Untold

Directed By: Gary Shore

Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, and Charles Dance

It's another weekend and yet another reminder that every other Hollywood studio wants to be Marvel.  With blockbusters Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy perpetuating the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's easy to see why everyone else is so envious.  While Fox had an excellent outing with X-Men: Days of Future Past in May, the film is hardly the making of a standalone mutant universe.  Sony never had a chance of creating a Spider-Man universe, and their lackluster product The Amazing Spider-Man 2 demonstrates exactly why.  Though we'll be waiting another year and a half to see what Warner Bros. does with their DC Universe, this weekend gives us a first look at Universal's monster movie universe with Dracula Untold.  Having seen their final product, I can hardly say I'm impressed.  It's just hard to emulate Marvel.

Raised by the Turks and well aware of their cruelty, Transylvania's Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) wants to ensure that his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon), his son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), and his people never have to deal with the malicious whims of the Turks.  That’s why he pays the Turks tribute.  When the sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) collects his periodic tribute and takes quite a bit of silver, he makes another demand.  Because a unit of his scouts has gone missing, Mehmed wants one thousand boys from Transylvania, including Vlad's son Ingeras, to join the Turkish army.  A good prince would give up the boys to keep the peace, but Vlad is not a good prince.

Having recently been to Broken Tooth Mountain on the coast and having witnessed firsthand the terror that lives there, Vlad decides to make another trip out there.  He desperately wants to see if he can become that terror to protect his people from the Turks.  When he arrives, he nearly loses his life to the creature known as the Master Vampire (Charles Dance).  Sensing hope rather than fear in the noble prince, the vampire sees an opportunity.  Capitalizing on it, the Master Vampire offers Vlad the power to fight the Turks, but there are strings.  The power is only a sampling that will last for three days.  If he happens to give into an unquenchable thirst for human blood, however, Vlad will become a monster and servant to the Master Vampire for all eternity.

If Dracula Untold is to be the prologue for Universal's Monsterverse that begins with The Mummy in 2016, I'm thoroughly disappointed.  I don't see Dracula as a hero, and I'm sure most don't.  He's supposed to be a savage beast with manners.  Yes, director Gary Shore is giving us the man before the myth, but there has to be something more.  We have to see a dark monster, a theatrical antagonist, and a cunning nemesis to all who oppose him.  That's the Dracula we all know and love.  There's nothing remotely frightening or thrilling about the Dracula we get here, even when he’s unleashing hell on men.  With Prince Vlad, we get none of this because the movie is more of a dark action flick.  We don't get a monster, even when he truly becomes Dracula.  Godzilla successfully offered us a savior earlier this year, but it just doesn't work here in Dracula Untold.

After losing my favorite character Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones earlier this year, I welcome any dose of Charles Dance on the big screen.  It's great to get a taste of his hilariously caustic wit in Dracula Untold.  Frankly, however, we don't get enough of him.  Despite his limited time on camera, he easily offers us the most interesting character on screen.  The rest of the cast is fairly disappointing.  Trying to capitalize on his exposure in Fast & Furious 6 and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Luke Evans fails to deliver an interesting performance as Dracula.  There's so much he can do in this role to bring this legendary character to life again that he just doesn't.  As Vlad's wife Mirena, Sarah Gadon gives an even more uninteresting performance.  With no personality and no spark, she's just a warm body on camera with a few lines.  Lastly, Dominic Cooper makes a terrible villain as Mehmed II.  He has no charisma and offers no worthwhile insights into the character.

I've got plenty of gripes with Dracula Untold.  It's an underdeveloped film that doesn't do justice to the cinematic legacy of this legendary vampire.  I have no choice but to give this disappointing outing a 0.09% rating.  This movie is more of a drinking affair than popcorn fare.  Have a few Manhattans with this one.