“Drink…and let the games begin”
You gotta love an origin story, even for the dark lord himself, as everyone’s misunderstood, no-one’s that bad really. Or so Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless would have us believe in Dracula Untold, a 2014 Gary Shore film that ultimately did fairly good business. Here, Luke Evans’ Vlad is a good lad who only got the nickname ‘The Impaler’ because he was kidnapped by the Ottoman Empire as a boy and trained into their most deadly assassin.
But he’s escaped now and has a wife and kid so all is good. Or is it? When a Turkish helmet (not a euphemism) is found in a river, Vlad realises that his childhood friend Mehmet, now Mehmet II, played by Dominic Cooper in a huge amount of fake tan (because you know, Hollywood couldn’t possibly try and turn a Turkish actor into a star) is up to no good. So he follows the stream to a cave where Charles Dance is hiding.
And ZOMG Charles Dance is a vampire, who is able to offer Vlad super-strength to defeat the massive Turkish army and so of course accepts, because Vlad is good. And the fact that he has to be turned into a vampire is ok because he’s got a 3 day return on this thing, as long as he doesn’t drink any blood in that time. Let’s hope his wife and kid don’t get pushed off the edge of a castle by a perma-tanned hand any time soon…
Dracula Untold is supremely daft but I have to say, there was something rather watchable about it. It employs some decent effects work, especially Vlad’s transformation into a flock of bats; and Evans is quite the personable actor (though Rent Remixed will always remain a blot on our minds), though the wisdom of re-presenting Dracula as a superhero of sorts always feels a bit of a stretch. (It was interesting to read on Wikipedia how this was originally intended to kickstart the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe franchise).
So acknowledge that Cooper’s casting is problematic and symptomatic of a wider Hollywood malaise, but celebrate Evans’ devotion to the rippedness of his body, and you have a Dracula that is, if not fully enjoyable, one to chalk up to the guilty pleasures list!