Bram Stoker's Dracula Reviews
"Lord Never Dies"
After just recently reading Dracula for the first time, I thought I'd give Francis Ford Coppola's film another look. This is a pretty faithful adaption altogether, albeit with the sexual subtleties from the book thrown out. The subtleties aren't there when it comes to sex anymore. There's a lot of nudity, a lot of sex talk, and innuendo thrown in throughout this Dracula adaption.
Same story as every other Dracula. Jonathon Harker is sent to Transylvania to meet with, and care for the purchases of Count Dracula. Once in his castle, Jonathon notices a lot of unusual things with the Count and his home. Soon Dracula leaves for London. Once there he begins corrupting the women as he begins his takeover of London, England, while also trying to get Harker's wife, Mina, to himself.
The cast isn't perfect in this one and neither are the characters. Keanu Reeves feels so out of place in this movie. Van Helsing, like every other Van Helsing character, doesn't really feel like the character from the book. I like Anthony Hopkins and he's good here as well, it's just not the true Van Helsing. Winona Ryder is a decent, but unsatisfactory, Mina. Gary Oldman is the selling point and is great as Dracula.
Altogether this is a really good Dracula adaption. It has its share of problems for sure, but the terrific cinematography, music, and atmosphere of Coppola's horror epic, more then make up for the small problems.
Of course, the main reason why this film is so great is not really due to Coppola‚(TM)s direction. More so, it is due to Gary Oldman‚(TM)s performance of the title character. Recreating the character to be more based off of the historic ruler Vlad the Impaler, Oldman makes his Dracula more romantic, more powerful, and more terrifying while not doing what so many other actors have done and try to mimic the performance of Bela Lugosi. Yes, Gary Oldman is over the top in this performance, overacting as so many actors in vampire films tend to do (really, it is difficult not to overact in a vampire film), but he adds a passion, sorrow, and evil into the character that really makes you pity him. When Vlad is a human, you feel his anger and hatred for the world and his hatred for God due to the events that have happened. With this in mind, Gary Oldman gives a performance that is still powerful today as it was when this film first came out. Many have tried to copy his tortured performance, and all have failed.
Another actor that I need to mention is Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. To be honest, I was shocked at how cold, frank, and just humorous he makes the character. Typically the character of Van Helsing is meant to be serious, old, and kind of a bore. But Hopkins, he makes the name Helsing be as cool as it sounds. Everything he is on screen, he delivers his lines, his movements, his entire persona with such a likeable charm that you can‚(TM)t help but laugh when he says something so macabre that it disgusts the characters. Truly a likable performance.
With the other actors and actresses, they are all okay. Nothing really stands out about any of them, and this is sad because there is SO much potential. Why Coppola decided to focus on the acting of two characters, I don‚(TM)t know. Even more so when there is so much time dedicated to Mina Harker (Winona Ryder) and I would have liked it if she was more developed as a character. It is quite sad, but regardless, we have already two powerhouse performances that are enough to carry this film as far as it was carried.
The aspect of this film that took me the most is the makeup effects on Gary Oldman as the old Dracula, the Werewolf Dracula, and the Vampire Dracula. With every variation, I found myself spellbound at how wonderful and breathtaking each version was. To say that the makeup team did not waste their time would be an understatement. Another aspect I want to talk about is Coppola‚(TM)s direction. As mentioned earlier, Coppola has a tendency to use different styles with his films to get the story across. With Dracula, I liked how he handled the prologue, the romance, and the ending of the film. However, some aspects are a little left to be desired. Like the scene where the Werewolf Dracula seduces Lucy in the garden. Personally, the direction was a bit confusing while you still got the point across. Things like that were a tad bit odd, but for the most part his dirction is pretty good, but he should probably not do Gothic Horror again unless he decides to fix some of the few problems he has with this film‚(TM)s direction.
In the end, this is the Dracula we have been waiting for: dark, creepy, romantic, fresh, and new. Granted, there are some aspects that are left to be desired, Coppola does direct Oldman and Hopkins in powerful performances that breathes new life into their characters and the impact of Coppola‚(TM)s film has had on vampire films in general is still apparent to this day.
Oldman of course IS the film, his performance is unique, eerie and spellbinding as he almost over acts his way through the sets but most definatley adds his own touch. He is helped by the tremendous set work and costume designs which are lavish to say the least, Oldmans odd look clearly helps him realise his characters potential and he utilizes it to the maximum. Sets are huge and detailed nicely while matte paintings are used to great effect to bring home the emense size of Dracula's castle and the sweeping brooding countryside which surrounds it whilst every cast member looks truly epic in their duds.
Its a shame the film is let down in various places and tends not to make sense from time to time, there is allot of love in this modern adaptation that's for sure so is still baffles me why Coppola cast Reeves as 'Harker'!! surely one of the worst casting errors made. That one decision virtually kills the whole film as Harker is a key element throughout, Ryder makes up for it slightly but even she isn't the best of options, Hopkins as always is solid but the damage is done with those bad casting choices, shame.
The film is very faithful to the story which is good and what did impress me was the decision to use all old traditional methods for effects as much as possible such as matte paintings, forced perspective, real time monster suits and makeup etc...they tried to make the film in a style akin to the legendary Dracula of 1931 effects wise to give it more of a that classic silver screen appeal.
Am erotic gothic dream is how I can sum this film up really, heavy romance set in blood and cobwebs which may just have suffered from to much Hollywood gloss in places, 'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' is probably the more realistic grittier film but this is a glorious dark fairytale. The sequences with Dracula in a large wolf like form looks fantastic along with his brief bat creature incarnation, award winning makeup which still holds up today.
Sorry, I wanted violence and not overly gratuitous sex. Fail.
The vampire comes to England to seduce a visitor's fiancťe and inflict havoc in the foreign land.
Bram Stoker must be turning over in his grave. This horrifically inept adaptation of the famous novel earns the distinction of being the worst movie ever made by an Oscar-winning director. It is hard to believe that the man who gave us "The Godfather" is responsible for this travesty. Although the title suggests a faithfulness to the novel, the film takes liberties and none for the better. Although the cinematography is beautiful and there is a fine score, the plot is incoherent and quite tedious. Coppola adds gratuitous violence and gross scenes to make it look edgy, but fails miserably. Both Reeves and Ryder look out of place in this setting.
To start with, Gary Oldman is the personification of the Dracula portrayed in the novel. Apart from looking almost exactly how the centuries-old vampire is described in the novel, his vocal and bodily performance is so unbelievably good that it will leave you transfixed. He wonderfully combines Dracula's charm, grace, sinister aspects, desire for revenge against God, lust for the women who surround themselves around Johnathan Harker, Van Helsing, Arthur Holmwood and Dr. Seward, and of course his thirst for human blood. He also portrays the lover who has lost his beloved to a remarkably good degree, and his superb acting of the scenes on the bed with Mina Harker brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. It is often said that an actor's performance is "electric," but even that isn't enough to describe the brilliance of Oldman as Dracula. "Stunning," "wonderful," or "magnificent" are closer to the mark when describing Oldman's portrayal. His sinister exclamation of Dracula's famous quote, "Listen to them, the children of the night, what sweet music they make" is particularly outstanding.
The other characters from the novel - Johnathan Harker (the estate agent who first meets Dracula), Mina Harker (his bride and the object of Dracula's affections), Lucy Westenra (Mina's friend), Arthur Holmwood (Lucy's husband-to-be), Quincey Morris (a Texan), Dr. Seward (a medical man) and Van Helsing (a professor and part-time vampire hunter) - are also brilliantly portrayed and given enough screen time to allow their characters to be developed as much as they need to be. Keanu Reeves is an excellent Johnathan Harker, sufficiently afraid while in Dracula's castle and determined enough to kill him back in England; Winona Ryder is a fantastic Mina/Elisabeth; Sadie Frost is a superb sweet, naive and flirtatious Lucy; Arthur, Seward and Quincey are portrayed well and make excellent vampire hunters; and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing is ten times better than the Peter Cushing version and a million miles closer to the eccentric genius portrayed in the novel. These characters, and Dracula himself, are portrayed beautifully and accurately in James V. Hart's stunning script, which adheres quite closely to Stoker's novel, including extracts from the novel and sufficient explanations to allow those who have not read the novel to understand and follow the plot.
The superb direction by Francis Ford Coppola is beyond any faults, and his handling of the bed scenes between Dracula and Mina is enough to bring out all the raw emotions and tears among the audience, let alone between the two characters themselves! The script is pure excellence and the prologue about Vlad the Impaler losing his bride (Elisabeth) after a battle between his people (the Transylvanians) and the Turks, then in his grief denying God's existence and avenging her death by becoming a vampire (i.e. Dracula) is superb and brings all the beliefs that Dracula was partly inspired by the real Vlad the Impaler bursting into a new light, and makes Dracula a sympathetic and tragic character, instead of the charming but deadly ladies' man as portrayed by Lee. The use of Romanian language in the prologue and later in the film adds authenticity to a beautiful and tear-jerking adaptation of the novel.
The music is one of the very best as heard in a film, and in places is so utterly fantastic it could almost be an undiscovered Beethoven's symphony. The scenery and costumes are beyond criticism, and offer a real sense of Transylvanian and English culture and tradition respectively. Dracula's red cloak, trailing behind him like a sea of blood, and the gold dragon on his chest (suggesting he is the dragon to Van Helsing's St. George) is wonderfully designed. The make-up of the elderly Dracula is sufficiently corpse-like yet alive enough to suggest quite rightly that Dracula is caught between life and death by his vampire's existence. The half-man, half-wolf and the half-man, half-bat versions of Dracula are wonderfully created with make-up and special effects (bearing in mind this film was made in 1992) and the death of Dracula at the end (his throat slashed by Johnathan Harker and his heart impaled by Quincey Morris) is beautifully written, acted and directed, and the scene where he reverts back to the young Vlad the Impaler and is finally allowed to die with Mina (the reincarnation of Elisabeth - hence his affections towards her) next to him is so tear-jerkingly wonderful it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.
Stunning. Truly stunning. There's nothing more to be said about it.