Review: “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” is a Schizoid Coppola Film
In 1931 “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi started the original classic Universal Horror series of films.
In the years since there had been other attempts at remakes of “Dracula”. Some were great, some not but almost all of them greatly deviated from the original novel. In 1992, the timing seemed right for a big-budget, more book accurate adaptation. Who better to helm this ambitious project than the director of “The Godfather” trilogy himself, Francis Ford Coppola.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 3.5
Now I have not actually read the original book so I can’t personally attest to the adaption accuracy other than to say I’ve heard it’s closer than most versions, but still makes a lot of changes. I know the direct connection of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler is made up for the film. Bram Stoker did take the name from the real historical figure, but there was no specific connection. It also adds and leans very heavily into the whole past lives romance between Dracula and Mina. Other than that the story is basically the same as one would expect. As a result of them trying to fit this new romance and motivation for Dracula the main part of the story we expect kinda takes a while to get going. Once Dracula kills Lucy the film really starts firing. Not to say nothing happens, but it’s this part of the film that feels the most bogged down by the subplot. The visuals of the film are probably its biggest asset. The sets, lighting, costumes, designs all are amazing. They’re obviously sets, but they’re so creative that you don’t care. Old Dracula’s costume in the beginning is probably the prime example of a truly bizarre design with unusual influences. You’ll never forget how Gary Oldman’s version of the character looks in this film.
The acting is like the film as a whole, full of great performances next to… not great. We have Gary Oldman giving probably the 3rd best portrayal of the Count after Sir Christopher Lee and the master, Bela Lugosi. He brings a nice balance of brutality, sadness, evil incarnate, sexiness and intelligence. A lot of people don’t care for Sir Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Van Helsing. They say he was just riding off his Oscar win for “Silence of the Lambs.” I rather like how this character who normally is our safety net, who knows all about hunting vampires acts crazier than Dracula himself. Most of the others are fine, again a lot of other people are pretty harsh on Winona Ryder. Aside from her accent I think she’s serviceable. The big WTF casting has to be Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. Even if you haven’t seen the film whatever you imagined him sounding like is absolutely accurate. Any scene with him becomes a mini comedy which in a horror film is not the best thing to have. Honestly, I think Cary Elwes would have been a far better choice.
Entertainment Value – 3
When this film works it works magnificently. The opening scene is something I can watch on repeat and be just as satisfied as if I watched the rest of the film. The bleeding cross overflowing the floor as Dracula in his human muscular armor watches in horror. The music builds and builds until hitting its peak at the title card. It’s as perfect of an opening as anyone could want. The music also hits that right balance of capturing the romantic and darkest sounds when either is called for. It’s just issues like what I mentioned before that snap you out of enjoying the parts you really like. I think this is a case of Coppola being so focused on creating the visuals that he neglected the story and interlocking the scenes together. As a result it feels more like just a collection of scenes that happen in successive order. I feel like I’m missing scenes while watching despite having sat through every second.
Re-Watchability – 4
I first saw this film sometime in late middle school/early high school era. So I’d say it stands up for repeat viewings. However, my conflicted opinions due to the problems I already mentioned maybe too much for some and I can completely understand that.
- Entertainment Value
“Bram Stoker's Dracula” is a mixed bag to say the least. Some will find it to be so bad it's good. Others just bad. Some may love it or others like me will be caught in the middle of this little Venn diagram. Even coming up with broad statements about the film is tricky as some things are amazing at some parts and terrible in others. I'll put it this way if you're like me and really value strong visuals, music and atmosphere then you may be able to enjoy this on a certain level. If you want consistent acting and better narrative flow, then I'd recommend some other versions of this famous tale. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.
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