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

My D&D Campaign: Cimmeria

I gave a brief description of my D&D campaign world previously, but have written nothing on it since.

I got involved in the Gurutama posts and I felt that writing about two different D&D worlds might get confusing.

The result is that there’s very little on the blog about what I actually do in my biggest hobby and that frankly seems a little stupid.

There are other reasons why I avoided describing my current D&D sessions besides the confusion between Cimmeria, the campaign world I use now, and Gurutama, the campaign world I’m building.

First, I’m not always the DM for my group. Sometimes my best friend DMs a campaign based in the Aegean where the other players and I oppose an evil conspiracy.

Should I be writing about those sessions here as well? Bringing a third campaign world in? Its already a little difficult for some of the other players to keep track of what’s happening in each campaign. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who aren’t playing and taking notes on this stuff like we are.

Second, there is an immense amount of existing information for Cimmeria that makes it a little difficult to describe the sessions to a newcomer.

For example, there is an NPC called Astyanax in Cimmeria. He is a prominent member of the Alliance opposing the evil guys.

I say Astyanax and the players all know what I’m talking about because they’ve interacted with him in the past and with his father, Hector.

There’s a mythical parallel to Astyanax as well. The mythical Hector was the greatest hero of Troy who died defending his city. After Troy was conquered, the Greeks killed the mythical Astyanax.

The Hector in my campaign died just like his namesake, but Astyanax lived on. He is now the greatest defender of his city in his father’s place. He might end up dying like his father did as well.

So imagine that level of explanation for not only the people, but the places and objects in my campaign. Everything has a history and I try to DM in a way that makes that history relevant.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to write stuff here about Cimmeria, but I’ve got explain in a way that anybody can understand the topic.

Not really different than how anything should be written when you think about it.

-Mister Ed

July Fourth as a Kid

July 4th was on Friday which for those of you who don’t know, is Independence Day in the USA.

There was a band, picnic, games, and fireworks at a park right near my house.

I went to that with my wife and had a lot of fun.

But I don’t want to write about that today. I want to write about how I used to celebrate July 4th with my mother.

When I was a kid my mom and I always went to a fireworks celebration on July 3rd at the Frost Amphitheater on Stanford campus.

The celebration at Frost Amphitheater happened on July 3rd so that all the people that worked at it could enjoy the real holiday with their own families.

It never mattered much to my mother and me which day we were celebrating July 4th on. One day for a celebration of Independence is as good as another.

The event starts with waiting in line.

There are a few seats that you can reserve, but they were quite expensive. Most people just got lawn tickets.

Lawn tickets don’t come with assigned seating, so the earlier you get there the better your seat is.

We would sit in line for an hour or two with all our picnic stuff, baskets and coolers of food, games, pillows, blankets, etc.

Once inside we’d set up on the lawn and wait for the music to start.

When we first started going the band was usually a giant orchestra that played lots of classical music.

Later on they switched to more popular bands that people could dance to like Cherry Popping Daddies.

I liked the classical music better, but listening to the Cherry Popping Daddies got me interested more and more in swing dancing.

The concert would go on until dark and then the band would announce the fireworks coming up.

The fireworks were set off behind the amphitheater and looked like every other fireworks show.

After the explosions were over everyone packed up their stuff and left, just like every other fireworks show.

They’ve stopped doing the July 3rd event, but I’ve started missing it more and more lately.

Maybe they’ll start it up again next year!

-Mister Ed

Hornblower

When I was a kid my dad and I traveled around in the car together a lot. We’d go to soccer practice or he’d drop me off at a friend’s house.

My family was lucky enough to own a second house about two hours away from our first home. My dad and I would go to the second home on weekends with our dogs and hang out.

On the drive to the second home we’d listen to books on tape in the car. The topics varied a bit. We’d listen to recordings of live storytellers, Greek classical history, mystery novels and a few other things. Our favorite thing to listen to was the Hornblower series by CS Forester.

The Hornblower series is set of adventure novels about a British naval officer named Hornblower who served during the Napoleonic wars. Hornblower’s fictional life is loosely based off of Lord Trafalgar, an English naval hero of the Napoleonic wars.

Hornblower starts off as only a midshipman, but by the end of the series he is a Lord with title and governance over a variety of places.

The Hornblower books are told from a limited third person point of view. The focal character is often not Hornblower, but Lieutenant Bush. Bush is initially Hornblower’s superior officer, but as Hornblower progresses through the ranks he eventually surpasses Bush. Hornblower and Bush become best friends during the series and chance places them together or they always request joint assignments.

In one of the latter Hornblower books, Bush goes off an a separate mission and supposedly dies. My dad and I thought for sure he was only thought to be dead, but as the book progressed it became clear that Bush was gone for good. He never reappeared in the subsequent books either.

As a present for my dad I’ve started writing a few Hornblower chapters for my own book. In my book, Bush survives the explosion that killed him, but went into hiding. He comes out of hiding for Hornblower’s help in a new endeavour.  Since it’s in vogue right now, I decided the new endeavour would be that Napoleon has risen from the dead as a vampire. Bush and Hornblower will team up to take him down!

I’ll most likely be posting a few of the chapters here as they are finished.

-Mister Ed