Bram Stoker's Dracula

May 7, 2010
Though vampires are too hyped up for my tastes nowadays, one can always look back in admiration at the older, and much darker, tales of vampires from long ago. Dracula may not have been the first vampire novel in history, but it's certainly the most timeless and influential to vampire lore. With that in mind, many filmmakers have set out to capture those Gothic horror moments onscreen, with various Dracula adaptations such as Nosferatu, Dracula, The Horrors of Dracula, etc. A very recent example, though, would have to be Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Imagine it - the director of The Godfather making an adaptation of Dracula that promises to be as close to the source material as possible. There's no way that could go wrong, right? Well...

The film follows, as the title suggests, the story of Dracula. We're introduced to the dark count, though, in a very different light than in previous adaptations. Instead of the vampire's background being completely unknown, he's presented as being the former Vlad Dracula III - an inspiration for the character, but never one directly connected with the actual vampire. Disowning God because of the suicide of his wife, Dracula vows to avenge his late bride through the powers of darkness. Approximately 400 years later, law clerk Johnathan Harker is asked to take over for his co-worker, Renfield, after the latter goes insane after meeting the new client. Leaving behind his fiance, Mina, Harker travels to the dark lands of Transylvania in order to meet this client - Count Dracula.

Though Coppola tries earnestly to create a new vision of Dracula, the film falls short in a number of ways. Firstly, the newly added subplot - while slightly original - only proceeds to cluster the film's narrative, which in turn makes the film feel bloated with an overabundance of ideas and dead-ends. There are so many dead-ends, actually, that it's sort of irritating. For instance, there's a scene where Mina and Lucy "see" Dracula in the clouds, and the two soon end up making out in the rain. How was this done? Why was this done? Is it a dream sequence, due to the fact that it's NEVER mentioned again? We can never know, as the film never even attempts to solve such matters.

That's not all that's wrong with the characterization/story. The film can sometimes even delve into the nonsensical, as random events occur for no particular reason. We see blue flames outside of Dracula's castle, but we're never told what this is or what it's for. It's blue fire for the sake of blue fire. Also, why does Dracula seem to be obsessed with sex in this adaptation? I know seduction's a part of the character, but it's just weird to see Dracula (in wolf-form) doing it with Lucy for no particular reason. I'd go into why Dracula has different forms, but it's simply another matter that the film doesn't feel necessary to address. I don't like being spoon-fed, but don't shove shenanigans down my throat and expect me to swallow.

Also, as I stated before, the entire narrative feels bloated because of the new material. Instead of having the dark Gothic subject matter, we're subjected to soap-opera levels of cheesiness as Mina asks herself, for about an hour of the film, whether she should give into Dracula's advances or not. Cry me a river. I'd actually care, if it weren't for the fact that Harker's played by Keanu "monotone voice" Reeves. He's so awful in this film, that he literally made me unlike the character of Harker - and I've always liked Harker.

Moving on, though, the performances are actually quite nice. Winona Ryder as Mina, for exmaple, was quite charming in her role and summed up the character nicely - pure and kind, but susceptible to temptation. Gary Oldman as Dracula was also pretty good, though I felt that he sometimes borrowed from previous great portrayals (such as Bela Lugosi). Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, though, was amazing. In probably the best portrayal of Van Helsing of all-time, I was absolutely sucked into this character thanks to the script and Hopkin's amazing performance.

Also, I felt the visuals were pretty good-looking as well. They didn't blow my mind, but they certainly achieved an interesting look, to say the least.

Though the film has some quality visuals and actors, Bram Stoker's Dracula completely falls apart in every other way. The narrative's clogged with boring new material, illogical events, and mopey soap-opera. It's not utterly bad, but the film's definitely a huge disappointment for anyone who admires horror or gothic fiction.

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