Dracula Untold Review

I saw Dracula Untold the other night in theaters.

It was decent, but not as good as the trailers made it seem to me.

The movie attempts to juggle a lot of different themes and ultimately fails on most of them.

The movie attempts to unify the historical story of Vlad the Impaler with the mythological story of Dracula. It does a decent job.

The historical story is heavily condensed, turning a three year war into something that takes about a week, but that’s to be expected when making a movie. The personalities of the participating characters are changed as well, but that was necessary for the story the script writers wanted to tell.

The mythological story is compromised to make Vlad seem more appealing to the audience. This is an origin story, so Vlad doesn’t start off as a horrible bloodsucking villain. He’s a family man who fights the Turks to protect his country as well as his son. He’s all but turned into card-carrying monster by the end of the movie though.

But if Vlad is a good person, how does he become a vampire? The “evil vampire” is a monster that is trapped by a curse within a cave. The vampire can turn someone else into a vampire. If that person does not drink blood within the next three days then they will turn back into a human. However, if they do drink blood then the original vampire will be freed from the cave to do horrible vampire things to people.

Vlad takes this deal with the devil to protect his family from the coming Turk invasion. The three days don’t prove to be enough to stop the Turk invasion, mostly because Vlad wastes his second day doing nothing of significance. Vlad chooses to extend his gift into eternity by drinking blood. He then shares his gift with a few of his loyal soldiers and they wreck the entire Turk army. The tactics employed by the vampires reminded me so much of the short story Out of the Dark by David Weber that I’m sure the script writers read the short story as well.

There’s lots of actions and special effects. A few wonky camera angles that mess up the movie, but those are fortunately rare.

I think my main issue with the movie was the multiple different personas Vlad has. We all act differently in different situations and around different people, there’s nothing unusual about that.

My problem was that there was no obvious transition between Vlad’s different personas.

Vlad comes back home after encountering the original vampire. This is before he makes a deal with the original. The vampire killed two of Vlad’s most loyal soldiers.

Vlad returns to his family, puts on a happy face, and kisses his wife. She notices he seems distant and he says, “I was only distracted by your unbelievable beauty.” Vlad then goes on to play and joke with his children before tucking them into bed before having sex with his wife in the bathtub.

But he just saw two of his men killed by a demon a few hours before this? It is possible that he transitions this quickly. He probably needs to do so often as he is a military ruler of his country with the nickname, “The Impaler,” but the audience does not see this transition. All the movie needed was to show Vlad outside the door to his family room before going in. He could sigh and shake his head before entering, having mentally prepared himself for hiding the brutal murders he just witnessed from his family. Nothing like that is in the movie. It goes straight from a discussion with a monk about the vampire to him reuniting with his family.

That’s not the only issue. When Vlad first accepts the curse of the vampire he understands that it might cost him his soul. He realizes that later on while praying in a church. Yet when he’s about to lose his power if he doesn’t drink blood, he doesn’t remember. The person who he drinks the blood of doesn’t remind him either. There should’ve been some discussion of whether his soul was worth expelling the Turks from Wallachia and saving his son’s life, but there isn’t! We at least get an anguished scream from Vlad after he drinks the blood, but that’s all. No traumatic battle between good and evil within him over becoming a demon. Just a battle over the sin of cannibalism.

Who would I recommend this movie to? Probably not fans of the historical Vlad the Impaler. Too much of the story is changed to truly match the real version.

It feels more like a typical action/adventure movie. If you liked The Mummy or Raiders of the Lost Ark then this will be a good movie for you to watch. Not as good as those classics, but a decent movie with fighting and special effects to entertain you. The characterization isn’t great and the plot… Well we all already know what happens in the Dracula story.

-Mister Ed

Order of the Stick

I read a few webcomics and one of my favorites is called Order of the Stick.

There are different genres of webcomics just like any other medium.

My favorite genre combination happen to be humorous comics about video games or D&D written by physicists or computer scientists.

Anyways, Order of the Stick fits pretty well into that genre.

Order of the Stick is drawn and written by Rich Burlew, a game designer who now does the comic full time.

The comic is about a band of adventurers named the Order of the Stick fighting the evil lich, Xykon.

As you can see the comic is drawn in a fairly simple style which is occasionally lampooned by the characters themselves. For example, Roy’s feet are different sizes and there is a comic where he talks about how his big shoe goes on his left foot.

Speaking of Roy, the main characters of Order of the Stick!

Roy is the black guy on the far right of the picture above. He is the leader of the Order of the Stick, an intelligent and principled fighter who fights Xykon due to an oath sworn by his father.

Next is Haley, a rogue with a complicated past. She joined the Order of the Stick to earn money to pay her father’s ransom. She’s stayed on due to the good work the group does and because she’s started dating the next person in line.

Elan is the blond guy playing the musical instrument. He is hyper aware of storytelling tropes. He also has an evil twin, a good mother, and an evil father. Elan is a bit dumb when it comes to anything that isn’t a storytelling device, but he has a pure heart.

Durkon is the short bearded guy. He’s a dwarven cleric. He looks out for everyone else in the party. He has a strong sense of honor and is always ready and willing to do the right thing.

The short bald guy behind Durkon is Belkar. He’s an evil halfling psychopath. His journey with the party is basically a form of community service for murders he’s committed in the past. You’d think this is weird, but its a fairly common gimmick used in D&D. The cat walking next to the party belongs to Belkar and is named Mr. Scruffy.

Flying above the party is Vaarsuvius, an elven wizard. Vaarsuvius is arrogant and uses magical power to cruelly avenge the slightest insult. Vaarsuvius’ gender is never revealed in the comic and is joked about on a few occasions.

Xykon is close to achieving his goal of using an ancient evil to rule the world, but the Order of the Stick is ready to stop him. Of more concern is Xykon’s assistant, Redcloak, who is planning on double crossing Xykon at any moment.

That’s enough on one comic for now!

-Mister Ed

Vampire Physics

That’s a picture of my favorite vampire, Spike. He’s a recurring villain/anti-hero from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I always like anti-hero characters and Spike is one of the better ones. He starts off as a villain, but fails spectacularly at that. He then tries his hardest to reform and become a hero, stumbling and falling all the way until he martyrs himself to save his love, Buffy.

Vampires are a very mutable part of our culture. The rules that define vampires change depending on which story you’re reading or watching. My dad and I refer to these rules as the “physics of the story.” Magic can have physics or superpowers can have physics or a particular type of monster can have physics. The important part of physics in a story is consistency. If the vampires can shoot lazers from their eyes, that’s fine as long as they all have that power or its absence is explained.

Vampire physics are consistent in most stories about them, but horribly inconsistent if you look at different stories.

Twilight vampires are supernaturally fast and strong, sparkle in daylight, need to be ripped apart and burned to be killed, and each individual vampire has a superpower of some kind.

Buffy vampires are strong and burn in daylight or when exposed to sanctified objects such as a cross or holy water. Buffy vampires turn to ash when a stake goes through their hearts, cast no reflection, and need to be invited into private residences before entering them. 

I might be remembering this one wrong as its been a long time since I’ve seen this movie. The vampire in Vampire in Brooklyn (Eddie Murphy in a classic gory vampire movie if you’re interested) has super speed, super strength, the ability to magically charm people, some sort of sixth sense, and the ability to create zombie-like servants.

In D&D, vampires are strong, fast, fear sanctified objects and mirrors, can’t cross running water unless in a boat, and are killed by decapitation or staking in the heart (but will return if the head is reattached or the stake removed). D&D vampires can also turn into a bat or a wolf and summon such creatures to do their bidding as well. D&D vampires can turn into mist, must sleep in coffins, can magically charm people with a glance, and can walk on walls.

All of these are part of the vampire myth and each is consistent within each story, but it becomes difficult when new vampire stories come out to discern what the rules will be. The sparkling vampires in Twilight were a new thing for a lot of people. Dracula isn’t killed by stakes in Van Helsing but can only be killed by werewolves. Another part of the vampire myth is a constant feud with werewolves, present in Twilight, Van Helsing, and Underworld.

That vampire-werewolf connection is actually pretty interesting. One of the theories is that vampire and werewolf stories started when rabies first reached Europe. People didn’t know what it was. All they saw was a bite turning a normal person into a beast of some kind whose bite would also transmit the disease. These people started being called vampires and werewolves (possibly even the same word that shifted pronunciation).

Anyways, I’m thinking about all of this because I’m writing about vampires in my True Colors Hornblower story. I’d like the vampire physics to be consistent, but I haven’t nailed down which rules I’d like to use. I’ll probably closely follow Buffy as that’s the story where my favorite vampire lives, but I’ll ditch those restrictions if they don’t fit the story.

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed