The premise of Dracula Untold is “What if Dracula was just a really good dad, you guys?” and that is more than enough premise for me. I am a very simple woman, and always have been, ever since I was a very simple child. I like movies set in vaguely medieval castle-towns. I like movies about guys who all they want to do is go back to their farms and wives a la Cincinnatus but dammit the world just won’t let them. I like movies about guys who impale a lot of people on pikes, and then there’s fog, and I like movies where enemies have to have a lot of meetings in each other’s war tents while drinking coffee and acting civilized, and Dracula Untold delivered. If you think that you are too good for a movie where a man turns into very many bats and then punches a lot of guys with his giant bat-fists, then I don’t know what you’re doing on this website or in my life. You’re not too good for it, I can assure you.
Some people have been saying that the advertisements for Dracula Untold, with their cape-and-bat motifs, have been biting [YEP] Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, and MAY I REMIND YOU THAT THE CONCEPT OF DRACULA AND BATS AND CAPES PREDATES THE DARK KNIGHT RISES BY A FEW HUNDRED YEARS.
Some stray observations
1. This must have been such a fun and supportive filming environment, because I feel like at the table read the director must have said yes to everyone’s different idea for what accent to use. There was no accent that was off-limits in this movie.
“I’d like to say all my v’s as w’s, but the rest of it’s going to be Received Pronunciation.”
“Absolutely. Yes. I love the energy you’re bringing to this. Anyone else?”
“Well…I know I’m supposed to be Turkish, but I’d really like to use a Transylvanian accent.”
“Why not? Guys, there are no bad ideas here.”
“Hi, um, so I know my character is named “Gypsy King,” and what I’d really like to do is dress exactly like Jack Sparrow and talk like no one has ever talked in the entire world.”
“I LOVE IT.”
2. There is a character who I swear to God is named “Gypsy King” in the script who is essentially Renfield and he has about three scenes; he dresses exactly like Jack Sparrow. There are no new ideas left in the world.
3. Dominic Cooper, WHO PLAYED THE BOYFRIEND IN MAMMA MIA, is Sultan Mehmet the Second in this movie. This is the second time in two years that he has been called upon to play a villainous, vaguely Middle Eastern character (NEVER FORGET THAT HE PLAYED UDAY HUSSEIN IN THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE), and it is inexplicable.
He graduated from Evil Brown Guy Casting Academy in the same class as Xerxes from the 300. I can’t help but love his scenes because it feels like the set designer spent about fourteen minutes Wikipedia-ing the Ottoman Empire and was just like “coffee, croissants, pointy hats, lots of hair gel, let’s do this.”
I have nothing else to say about this portrayal of Mehmet II other than I highly doubt one of the most brilliant tacticians since Alexander the Great was really willing to waste 100,000 troops to take one child away from a minor European vassal, but whatever.
4. The entire premise of this movie, right, is that Dracula (I’m not going to sit around here calling him VLAD like we didn’t both spend the whole movie waiting for him to say CALL ME DRACULA) is such a good dad that he’s willing to turn himself into pretty much the actual devil for the sake of his son. And yet! At the end of the movie, Dracula is alive and well and there’s pretty much nothing stopping him from going back to see his son? Everyone who hated or resisted him is dead. His son is terrified, orphaned and nine but now he’s the king of Transylvania, and he would probably find the occasional visit from his loving father enormously helpful. But he just sets off, like, “Welp, time to start my Rime-of-the-Ancient-Mariner phase.”
5. During the movie I kept leaning over to my friend Alicia whenever the original vampire appeared on screen and whispering “That’s Gary Oldman, I swear to God that’s Gary Oldman,” to which she always replied “That’s definitely not Gary Oldman,” to which I always replied, “Well, it’s definitely someone,” which means I am turning into both of my parents right on schedule. (It was Charles Dance.)
6. Charles Dance’s character was named Caligula in the script. No one ever called him that, and it was unclear if he was supposed to be related to the real Caligula, and if so how did he get to a Wallachian cave from Rome, or just named something creepy.
7. So the basic premise is that Charles Dance would give his Dracula-ing powers to Dracula for three days to fight off the Turks, and if he could resist drinking human blood for that time, he’d go back to his normal self; if not, Charles Dance would finally be allowed to leave his cave and was going to exact revenge upon the demon(?) who turned him into a vampire.
8. So Dracula ends up drinking blood, obviously, and Charles Dance leaves the cave, and then nothing else happens.
9. BUT THEN, flash forward 500 years and Dracula runs into the reincarnation of his dead wife in a flower market and they stroll off happily together, and Charles Dance (who looks better now, like he has a human face and is wearing a suit, and why does he look healthier now 500 years after looking like a melted candle) follows them off-screen, muttering “Let the games begin.”
10. WHAT GAMES
11. WHY DO YOU CARE ABOUT THIS WOMAN CHARLES DANCE WHY AREN’T YOU OFF GETTING REVENGE ON THE GUY THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS EXERCISE WAS TO GET REVENGE ON
12. Don’t get mad at me for telling you the wife dies; the wife always dies in origin stories. She might as well have been played by a big skull and crossbones, look at how IMMINENTLY DEAD she looks:
She’s BLONDE, which is never a good sign, and she’s constantly wearing linen shifts that are slipping off her shoulder while laughing merrily, and her only character traits are “I really love my husband with his sad, sad eyes” and “I’m English for some reason.” She is the purest and fairest blossom of Aryan Womanhood, which is an entirely fatal condition in movies about sad white men.
13. To her credit, Dead Wife is enormously supportive of Dracula’s decision to Dracula, which I really appreciate in a movie like this. Obviously his own people turn on him about fourteen seconds in for no reason, even though all he’s done is turn into bats and help them, and he gets to deliver a great The Reason You Suck speech, and she’s just there to stare adoringly at him and then get real fierce-eyed when she dies and say “Drink all of my blood and just kill everybody.” That’s teamwork.
14. There’s a scene that gets really built up where Dracula’s son asks what he keeps in this secret room and Dracula says “something I hope I never have to use” and you think it’s maybe Charles Dance or a bunch of spikes (from all the times he used to spike people) but it’s just a suit of armor. He wears it. It’s not a big deal.
15. I loved this movie.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.