Leaving the cinema last night I found myself arguing with half the audience about the movie. Half of them said the movie sucked, and the other half (myself included) loved it. Now, this is a type of movie that will divide the audience so much that there will not be a middle. One will either love it or hate it (which seems to be a pattern in recent Hollywood history). By just watching the trailer it was clear as day that this will not be a masterpiece or a rebirth of Stocker's fable. So I ask a very plausible question: What did you expect?
1) The acting. This is a prototype of how a star is born. Luke Evans was by far the best choice for the lead role. His dark and passionate portrait of the prince was staggering. He was believable in every scene from start to finish. The changes of his character were so sophisticated and cool that only after the movie ends one actually realizes what a good performance that was. Evans is the only one that equals the '92 Gary Oldman performance. Cooper on the other hand used as a great counter performance showing just how bad his acting really is. That only emphasized Evans' performance. It was noticeable that the director felt the same way and gave him just a couple of scenes in the movie. Though, the end fight between the two was interesting, in my opinion it was more to the character and wardrobe than Cooper's performance. Two young actors of which one has, and will have a great career - Evans. Dance had an interesting role, but nothing worth praising. The rest of the cast I felt just filled the space and did a decent job.
2) The story. Unlike the stories so far (unfortunately there have been a lot) this one takes us far back to the very beginning, to the origins. It is innovative, and interesting to see how the story reveals itself. This is what the ones who don't like the movie don't like the most. Everyone expected a classic Dracula story and bloodsucking and London and Van Helsing etc. This is something else and accept it as it is. A good fantasy action movie with great visual effects, good acting and a decent story. The story has a nice paste, it is a great combination of slow sequences and action. But, the true problem with the movie is the length. 93 min is way to short for a movie of this type. If it were 30 min longer the characters could have been explored more, the story could have had more drama, and the ending could have been longer and bloodier. But this length shows that a nice story with enough drama, suspense, action and a bit gore, can be told in 90 min. We are, unfortunately spoiled by all the big spectacles lasting over 120 min, so 90 min can seem a bit short.
3) The visual effects. By far the most memorable part (besides Evans). They are dark, brutal and entertaining. It is a joy to watch and it always leaves one sitting and waiting to see what Dracula will come up with next. And yes, the burning on the sun is very believable and quite gruesome.
I have said a lot about this movie so far and most of it was good. This movie has its flaws - the length, the story holes, the lack of a good antagonist... One could really go on for days. But that is not the point. What matters is that Dracula untold provided exactly what it said it would - a great ride. It will not be a huge box office hit, it will not win an Acadamy award. But people will see it, they will have a good time go home and forget about it. That is exactly what Dracula is - 90 min of good entertainment. Not everything has to be The Shawshank Redemption or the Godfather. And most importantly, not every Dracula story has to be R rated and a pure horror movie. So, go see it, expect a fun ride, and you will enjoy it.