This is a movie that dials it up to eleven on everything. It is a big beautiful mess. It is over the top and just about as wild as a movie can be. It is also completely fun and entertaining throughout.
This film changes the traditional Dracula story by adding a centuries old love story to motivate the vampire. It also adds a lot of commentary on the sexual repression of the time period in Bram Stoker wrote his original book. It’s the best way to create a new and fresh adaptation of a story that has been told thousands of times before. Add thematic depth and create new motivations for the characters. The story is essentially the same, but it feels so different from any other version with these elements.
The movie is incredibly beautiful to look at. The production design is wild and gorgeous and just about as far over the top as one can get. Dracula doesn’t just wear a red robe. He wears a red robe that is twenty feet long. His castle is just big it has ceilings that stretch as far as the eye can see. It is richly detailed and incredibly atmospheric.
One of the most incredible aspects of the film is its special effects which were all done practically without the use of computer effects. This enriches the film deeply for any filmmaker or lover of film. There is a green mist that pours through the cracks in the door. How did they do this? Not sure. it becomes a fun puzzle to figure out. There is one incredible shot as Johnathan Harker travels toward Dracula for the first time. The pages of the letter he’s writing appear over his face and the red sky is suddenly filled with the watchful eyes of Dracula as if beckoning Harker closer. How it was achieved? Not sure. It looks beautiful. It is a stunning and bonkers and lasting image.
The drawbacks… Keanu Reeves is famously bad in this movie. He plays Johnathan Harker here and his wooden delivery and bizarre choices are just plain laughable at times. The movie is way too long. It seems to build up narrative steam only to suddenly slow to a crawl. The movie is way more interested in Dracula and his invented backstory here than in any other part of the movie. There is a bizarre scene in which Van Helsing who has been called in to help fight the vampire seems to possess magic teleportation powers. The film races to a finale that disappoints after the wild innovative ride we’ve just been on.
The film is messy and crazy. It feels like everyone was told to cut loose and do whatever they wanted. The actors are just having fun with it. Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins seem to be in a contest to see who can devour the most scenery. The set and costume designers are throwing all their craziest ideas onto the screen. The cinematographer is breaking all the rules with his lights. It’s just a wild ride of a movie that if you can get on board with will be wildly entertaining if not entirely cohesive.
Definitely my cup of tea. – A-