Dracula, dark superhero with heart
DRACULA UNTOLD (PG13)
Action fantasy/93 minutes/Opens today
Prince Vlad III (Luke Evans) of Transylvania is enjoying peace in his kingdom, until ruthless Turk leader Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) storms his land and demands he hand over 1,000 boys - including Vlad's own son - to join his army. Infuriated, Vlad strikes a deal with a sorceror (Charles Dance) to get immense power and speed. The price he pays is to suffer an insatiable thirst for human blood.
THERE are no sparkly vegetarian vampires here. In an age when lovesick teenage vampires are all the rage, Universal Pictures brings Bram Stoker's classic horror monster Dracula back to the big screen as if to say: This is the real deal.
The vampire here can certainly kick the butt of Twilight's Edward Cullen any day. Terrifying and cruel, Dracula is scarily dispassionate when he is exter- minating entire towns.
But he is not entirely without heart.
As this origins story attempts to show, the former Transylvanian ruler chooses to turn into a monster because he believes it is the only way to save his family and his kingdom from getting killed by the ruthless Turks. If Dracula is out murdering anyone, it is only to protect his people.
So it would seem that before Dracula became Dracula, he was Prince Vlad III, a prince and warrior feared by his enemies, but also a beloved ruler and righteous family man on the home front.
Unlike Robert Pattinson's bland portrayal of Cullen, Welsh actor Evans (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, 2013) is compulsively watchable, as hunky as he is dignified, making this vampire a far cry from the cheesy heart-throb that pre-teen girls have been going gaga over in recent years.
The character is also realistically flawed, as he questions whether killing so many others is justifiable for saving his wife and son.
There is a dark superhero-like feel to the way Dracula is portrayed here, as opposed to the typically campy creature with the hilariously thick Romanian accent (Evans speaks with a British one).
The new treatment is apt, given that the film is believed to kick off a series of reboots of what is known as the Universal Monsters franchise.
The Universal Monsters refer to the classic horror creatures that production studio Universal was famed for making movies about from the 1920s to 1960s, including Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man.
According to reports, these film reboots, to be released over the next few years, will culminate in an Avengers-like shared cinematic universe of monsters, a clear move by the studio to grab a piece of that profitable fantasy-superhero box-office pie.
The studio must be hoping Dracula fighting baddies alongside Frankenstein will prove to be just as fun for moviegoers as watching Iron Man bantering with The Incredible Hulk.