RATING |

Dracula Untold is a movie that gives good trailer. That's not surprising because it's a visually arresting saga. Unfortunately, the story in the final, full version is thicker than blood.

Dracula - or, as his subjects call him, Vlad - is the beneficent ruler of Transylvania. (In this telling, he's been promoted from Count to Lord.) A devoted family man, he will do anything to maintain peace and prosperity in his mountain fiefdom.

But the perfidious Turks can't let a good thing be. Their glowering Sultan (Dominic Cooper, who played James Bond's creator in the BBC America mini-series Fleming) exacts a terrible tribute.

Vlad (Welsh actor Luke Evans of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) will do anything to save his peeps - even take on the ancient curse of a cave vampire (Charles Dance, Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones).

The idea is to humanize one of the most fearful monsters in the Western crypt. But Dracula Untold goes way overboard, past domestication and into canonization.

There's a glaring contradiction in the plot, however. Vlad, who loves his son (Art Parkinson, Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones) above all else, shows an Abrahamic willingness on several occasions to sacrifice the boy.

Though the film centers on a series of battle scenes, director Gary Shore - an Irishman known for his work on TV commercials - makes the surprising decision to almost completely avoid graphic depictions of violence in his feature debut.

As laudatory as that policy is, it makes Dracula Untold seem anemic, especially given its premise and genre.

What we get instead is less monster and more melodrama, a soul-searching Dracula more inclined to chew the scenery than a jugular.

Dracula Untold 1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Gary Shore. With Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, vampirism, adult themes).

Playing at: area theaters. EndText

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