Vlad Tepes III must find a way to protect his people and his family from the threat of a Turkish invasion.
Dracula Untold isn't quite what I expected, and that's never a bad thing.
It's an epic action-adventure, its a love story, a visual treat and a halfway clever new slant on the story of Dracula. Of course, Bram Stoker never actually named Tepes as the source of his literary character but its become an accepted addendum to the tale and screenwritersMatt Sazama andBurk Sharpless tie the hanging threads together in a way that's fairly interesting.
The plot rockets through its opening beats, taking in the violent early life of Tepes and setting him as a family man and a ruler who wants nothing more than peace. But he'll fight if he has to and when the Turks come threatening, he turns to some supernatural help he recently discovered in a cave. That's Charles Dance by the way.
This all happens very quickly, with no time spent on contemplating the consequences of his actions and only a few spare moments to even glimpse the relationship he has with his wife and small son. And that's the main sticking point of the entire film, its in such a hurry not to bore the audience for even a moment that it risks not engaging them at all during its brisk 90 minute running time.
Everywhere there are signs of trims and cuts, from the way Vlad is left to figure out his powers all alone to Dance's entire character and the three massive set pieces which make up the last 30 minutes. It's all a bit too breathless to really enjoy.
Which is a shame because Dracula Untold also does many things right. The script is better than we've come to expect from this kind of production and the primary actors, including Luke Evans and Sarah Gadon, are perfectly watchable. But the biggest star here is almost certainly young Irishman Gary Shore. Taking on his first ever feature he brings a huge amount of visual style to bear on the production, complete with wonderful visual effects and highly detailed sets and costumes, all lensed in Northern Ireland.
He also brings that sense of style to the many action beats which are well-directed and mostly make sense, in contrast to recent action cinema. These scenes are wide and sweeping and come complete with a plethora of superpowers which are a lot of fun to watch as they devestate the Turkish forces. He also mounts a decent final confrontation and a coda which could point to future adventures for the count.
It's a shame so much of the plotting is so perfunctory, the beats hit mechanically to get us from one scene to the next. There's real potential here, especially with a little more breathing room in the running time, but one thing is for certain - Shore is a talent to watch.