Over on my DaveOnFilm film blog, I posted a review of the new film Dracula Untold. You might go read it, as the film was definitely better than I expected, and better than most critics would lead you to be believe. Just as Batman Begins is a retelling of the mythic Dark Knight origin story and Wicked is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, so is Dracula Untold a different origin story for a man who has definitely become an archetype for evil in the world: Dracula.
What really struck me about the story wasn’t the special effects, the surprisingly few horror scenes or the moments when Vlad (Luke Evans) becomes the beast and attacks those who threaten his son, but how he was such a loving, dedicated father, even in the face of unimaginable horrors.
In the movie, his nemesis, the Turkish Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) demands that Prince Vlad give him 1000 boys that he can train to become amoral, heartless troops for his invading army. Vlad had been taken away from his father in a similar way years earlier and now that he has a son of his own, the foppish Ingeras (Art Parkinson), he is determined not to repeat the mistake of his father and just hand over the boys — and his son — to the Sultan.
Men determined not to repeat the sins of their fathers, really a classic challenge for any man, for any parent. Here the stakes are incredibly high, of course, because it will sever the relationship between Vlad and his 10yo son, but it brings up a core question for any father: how far would you go to protect your son, even in the face of unimaginable, seemingly insurmountable odds?
In the movie, Vlad takes on the Sultan’s army, a massive troop that far outnumbers those fighting men available in his little kingdom. To improve their odds, he makes the quintessential deal with the devil, becoming a vampire, becoming the undead, so that he has the strength of a hundred men and can single handedly defend his subjects and, of course, his wife and child.
The nuance here is that if he doesn’t drink any human blood for three days and nights after the transformation, it’s temporary and he can go back to being a mortal human. But [[ SPOILER ALERT ]] when his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) is mortally wounded, it’s she who encourages him to drink her blood so that he retains his strength and can keep his son safe from the Turks.
Again, that same question of what would you do to save your children? Would you sacrifice your life? Would you sign a contract with the devil to protect your son or daughter? Would you take on insurmountable odds to be the shield of safety against the dark, cold night?
In many movies, parents are portrayed as self-absorbed and often uncaring about their children. It’s refreshing to see a movie where there’s such a deep bond, such a powerful love between the father and the son, a love that, for Vlad, justifies a horrific deal to save his son from a terrible fate.
So, what would you do in that situation?