Dracula Untold: Bat Crazy

Ben Atwater

Few people today have read Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Among the many include the makers of Dracula Untold.

Luke Evans as Vlad the Impaler in Dracula Untold (AP photo)
Luke Evans as Vlad the Impaler in Dracula Untold (AP photo)

Yet, contrary to popular belief, I do not believe a film should be measured to its source material, but rather how it stands alone as a film. And Dracula Untold stands as a mediocre film.

The film is also structured like a superhero film in many ways. Dracula, or Prince Vlad the Impaler, upon which the literary character is based, is the ruler of Transylvania. Enslaved by the Turks to become a soldier as a boy, Vlad became one of the most decorated soldiers of his time, impaling thousands of men for the Sultan. When Vlad grows older, he returns to Transylvania to rule as prince and start a family. This is where the action of the movie starts.

Vlad is very much a family man now, so when the Turks return to once more take Transylvanian boys for the Sultan’s army, Vlad decides to stand up to the Sultan. However, Transylvania is depicted as a mere castle and surrounding village, whereas the might of the Turks is shown as a vast army.

To acquire the power he needs to save his people, Vlad confronts a master vampire encountered earlier in the film. Vlad seeks the strength of a vampire, but the master vampire warns him that it will come at a deadly cost, for if he cannot resist the urge for blood for three days, then Vlad will be cursed to live as a vampire for eternity.

From here, we all already know how it ends, but Vlad’s fight against the Turks is entertaining enough. Vlad gets his powers, and tests them out much like a superhero. He now has enhanced strength, sight and hearing, and can transform into a swarm of bats. Yet he cannot come out in daylight, for instead of sparkling like Edward Cullen, he melts.

Eventually, the final fight between Vlad and the Sultan comes, and I must say, it is quite a predictable ending. We all know from the beginning that Vlad becomes Dracula, lord of the night. Or does he?

Luke Evans plays a noble family man, much like his role of Bard in The Hobbit. In this regard, his personality is almost exactly like Bard, and aside from the name, the two seem like the same character. I have read both The Hobbit and Dracula, and Bard and Dracula are not similar at all.

In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula is a calculating vampire whose intentions are solely based off the desire to suck blood from his victims. He is highly intelligent, and values history and antiquity. Yet he is far from amicable to anyone, and is not humanized in the least. While the 1931 Bela Lugosi film Dracula is far from the most accurate adaptation of the novel, the depiction of the titular character captures the essence presented in the novel.

In Dracula Untold, Vlad has nothing to do with Dracula. Now, as I mentioned earlier, straying from source material does not bother me. This film’s title is a misnomer, as it is a Dracula film in name only. Perhaps a better title would have been “Vlad the Vampire.” I get that they were trying to connect Vlad the Impaler to Dracula, but the historic Vlad merely gave influence to the characteristics of Dracula, and Bram Stoker never meant Dracula to be Vlad the Impaler. So, in creating a Dracula adaptation, this film fails wholeheartedly.

Yet as a film, it is okay. Some of the action is decent, particularly the final battle when Vlad is manipulating thousands of bats against the Turkish army. Luke Evans plays a likable lead, even if the character is too likable to be Dracula.

The ending is terrible, and is merely thrown in to try to establish the roots for a Universal monsters shared universe, similar to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. This film universe will include reboots of monster films featuring The Mummy, Frankenstein, Invisible Man, Van Helsing, and other monsters. So, Dracula Untold can be considered what Iron Man and Man of Steel are to their shared universes.

To wrap up, the ending sets up the shared universe,while detracting from the film overall. The film doesn’t suck, but certainly does not shine in the sun. Bearing this in mind, Dracula Untold might be worth seeing at a SCOPE movie night, but only if you aren’t busy.