Dracula: Untold

Anyone who says that's not a cool poster is lying.
"Every Bloodline Has a Beginning"

It's that time again my children of the night, time for The Tagline: Untold. Today as promised we will be travelling to Transylvania, where there are lots of spooky mountains and forests and it appears to be a creepy twilight almost all the time. This spookiness is obviously the perfect place for an awesome castle, and also VAMPIRES. So by that rationale was Dracula: Untold made, a story about the man who became the monster, or something. Dracula Untold stars Luke Evans (who you probably recognize best as Bard the Bowman in the Hobbit movies) as Vlad, the infamous impaler. After being sent away as a hostage and soldier for the Turks, Vlad returns home to take his place as the prince of Transylvania, has a wife who has a bad habit of being drained by vampires in film (Sarah Gadon, also see The Moth Diaries for her turn with Lesbian Dracula) a son and a host of loyal retainers who are certain to be dead in the following hour and a half. Things are going hunky dory until envoys arrive from the Ottoman Empire. The sultan, Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper you know Tony Stark's dad), demands in addition to his usual tribute of lots of ducats (10,000 ducats to be precise) that he be given 1000 boys to train as soldiers for his Janissary battalions. This is the same thing Vlad's dad did to him, and it looks like he's about to go for it and acquiesce, until the Turkish officer taking away Vlad's own son get's kinda lippy at him. Then in the space of I'd say ten seconds Vlad takes the guys sword and then kills all six of the Turkish soldiers with it. We must remember that at this point in the story he is just a man. A very scary man.

WHOA too close.
A man who has made a choice that while totally cool, and obviously what his wife wanted, also consigns his lands to be attacked by the rather large armies of Mehmed II who for those not especially studied in world history was known as "the conqueror". With no army to speak of and a lot of people who are going to die, Vlad remembers the time his two pals were murdered in a spooky cave at the beginning of the movie by something horrible that was probably a vampire. Jumping to the logical conclusion, Vlad goes back to the mountain, climbs it and then stands in front of the cave mouth with his totally sweet red cape billowing all bad ass. Then he makes a deal with the devil.or at least a guy who had previously made a deal with some manner of devil. The bargain is that Vlad gets the vampire's (Charles "Tywin Lannister" Dance to be more specific) power on loan, and will return to being a normal man if he can resist the urge to drink blood for the three day trial period. If he gives in and treats everyone around him like human Capri Sun pouches, then he will be a vampire forever, and also Charles Dancepire will be free to wreak his bloody vengeance on the world and more specifically the demon that trapped him in the cave to begin with. How could this go wrong? Obviously there's no way this could go RIGHT but really what choice does Vlad have? None that's what DRINK FROM ME AND LIVE FOREVER.

Oh but we get a zoomed out shot of his pretty wife. Thanks movie.
So armed with the ability to command the creatures of the night, become a swarm of bats, and otherwise just totally fucking destroy anyone he wants to (including whole armies of guys) Vlad returns and sets about trying to wipe the floor with Mehmed's entire army in the space of three days, and if we're being real here he is actually stuck trying to do it in three nights because obviously he can't go outside during the day. As you might expect, a very large number of people die in the 72 hour trial period. like a huge number of them. I saw people complain about the effects but I thought they were pretty cool. I didn't find anything to take issue with. I also saw a lot of complaints about the acting and I didn't think that was terrible either. To be honest I'm not sure how people imagined a Dracula origin story might be. I suppose some people might have gone to see a horror movie, and been mad to get an action movie instead, but I was personally delighted by that.

If you really want to sell your badguy as a hatable dick, have
him fight in a suit of solid gold armor, on top of piles of silver
Of interesting note and as near as I read not noted anywhere in reviews, the version of events presented in this movie actually shows a pretty keen appreciation for real live history. Several reviewers found the plot to be contrived, but in fact the motivation for Vlad's actions, Mehmed's demands for tribute, were a real recorded historical fact. Vlad III refused to pay tribute to Mehmed, who as sultan of the Ottoman Empire claimed all of Transylvania, and particularly Wallachia where Vlad was prince, as part of his empire. This led to Vlad waging a desperate but surprisingly successful war against the Ottomans, and in fact he did slaughter an unimaginable number of them given his relatively small forces. Vlad Dracula has a dark reputation as a sadistic torturer and monster outside of Romania, but accounts from eastern European sources are substantially less dubious, and he is locally a folk hero, because he fought for the sovereignty of his lands against Turkish aggression. It becomes easy to use this backdrop as grounds for his bargain and transformation. Vlad's cause of death is also ambiguous, and the movie used that in a fairly cool way as well. Obviously as a movie about Dracula the vampire, and full of the supernatural, the screenwriters were under no obligation to conform to history, but I thought it was really cool that they incorporated a lot of history into the movie anyway (as a further aside Vlad really did serve as a political hostage to the Turks as a boy, where he learned their culture, language, and modes of warfare)

Still from the movie? Castlevania box art? I don't even care.
(it's a still from the movie)
As a 97 minute long exercise in medieval warfare matched with supernatural power and damnation, and featuring a tormented tragic hero as the lead, this movie exceeded my admittedly low expectations in more or less every way, proving to be a really fun action movie that happened to be about a guy who is sometimes a swarm of bats. It delivered on my desire to watch a guy in spooky armor massacre armies, and I got Dominic Cooper fighting him in a suit of golden armor as a bonus I wasn't even expecting. I can understand people being upset that Dracula isn't the villain of this film, or a villain at all, but after watching the first act of the movie I really didn't WANT him to be. I'm glad to see that mixed reviews aside, the movie has at least grossed well over its production budget, so perhaps... other Universal monster movies? There is some rumbling of a sequel, which given the open ended epilogue of the film could be interesting.

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