David and Goliath Book Review

David&Goliath

I recently finished listening to an audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. The nonfiction piece focuses on how being an underdog can occasionally confer advantages that the “overdog” doesn’t expect.

The book uses a wide-range of examples of underdogs overcoming their disadvantages and actually using them as jumping off points to topple bigger and stronger opponents.

This isn’t a new idea to me or the world. Scholars were peddling this theory at least 1,500 years ago when the Roman Empire fell. I first read about it in Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece, Dune, where the fictional race of Freman are hardened by their desert homeland and are able to overcome the forces of the Padishah Emperor. Continue reading

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