Dracula Untold casts The Hobbit’s Luke Evans as Vlad. That’s Vlad, as in the legendary Vlad the Impaler. As a boy, he was given — with other young Romanian boys — as tribute to Turkish conquerers. They were beaten mercilessly and turned into warriors.
After serving his time, Vlad returns home, ascends the throne and kills his enemies by impaling them on stakes. It turns out that Vlad really is a nice guy and there is a good reason for the impaling. The Turks leave Romania alone until the son of the former Turk ruler returns and demands 1,000 children as tribute. Mehmed and Vlad were friends as children, and he assumes negotiation will end the demand. It doesn’t.
Insulted by Vlad’s pleading, Mehmed adds Vlad’s son to the mix. Forced into action, Vlad kills the soldiers sent to get the children, and Mehmed’s army invades.
Desperate to save his kingdom, Vlad goes to a mountaintop cave where a vampire lives and cuts a deal. He gets the vampire’s powers for three days and with those powers should be able to stop Mehmed’s advance and destroy his army. The lust for blood will be almost overwhelming, but if Vlad resists, after that time, he will return to normal. If he doesn’t, he’s a vampire forever.
We know things don’t work out that way, and director Gary Shore’s movie tells you the who, what, where, when and whys of Vlad’s transformation.
Maybe there’s a reason some stories are “untold.”
In the case of Dracula, I think Bram Stoker didn’t tell the whole story on purpose. Stoker dropped hints about Drac’s origins but didn’t spill it all. The author knew some mysteries are better left as mysteries.
Move forward in time over a century, and it looks like when it comes to two first-time screenwriters and a first-time director doing a movie about that untold story, maybe untold ought to remain that way.
Taking this and that from the evolved Dracula legend and combining it with real happenings of the real life Vlad, and then adding bits and pieces of Stoker’s novel to the mix, Shore and screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless tell the “untold” story.
Dracula Untold — unfortunately — stays at the Wikipedia level. Effects and sets replace solid acting and story. While I wouldn’t pound a wooden stake through the heart of Shore’s movie, it really doesn’t have anywhere to go.
It gets worse. Like everyone else doing vampire movies these days, Shore and his writers can’t resist making the vampire a nice, misunderstood person who — in turn — resists sucking the blood of poor, unsuspecting humans.
Another thing they couldn’t resist? Shore leaves you hanging at the end. The urge to do a sequel is as powerful as the lust for blood.