A difficult one, this. Undeniably stunning to watch, this version of the classic tale from Director Francis Ford Coppola has many positives. Unfortunately it also has some screamingly bad inconsistencies, too.
I won’t dwell too long on the plot, as the narrative manages to follow the source novel for the most part. Suffice to say that Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is despatched to Transylvania to arrange some London real estate for a certain Count Dracula (a brilliant Gary Oldman). Dracula then relocates to Victorian England, where his cult of vampirism is destined to grow.
Despite following many of the key scenes from Stoker’s original book, and indeed managing to correctly include most of the characters for a change, this isn’t the definitive movie version it claims to be. Rather, Coppola’s film is scuppered by introducing a ridiculous love story between Dracula and Mina (Winona Ryder) that wasn’t in the book. So for every brilliantly shot tribute to the novel that Coppola makes, there’s a stake through the heart thanks to the silly romance aspect.
The performances vary from superb (Oldman) to annoying (Sadie Frost as Lucy). Then there’s Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, who can’t decide how far to ram his tongue in his own cheek.
Poor old Keanu always comes under heavy criticism for his work here, and yes, his British accent is truly abominable. In his defence, however, I would say that he looks exactly as I always imagined Jonathan Harker to look. So give him a break. For me, Winona Ryder is much worse – her acting and accent are both wrong, and she also looks totally out of place.
Thank heavens for some authenticity with appearances for much loved characters Dr Seward (Richard E Grant, great job); Arthur Holmwood (perfectly cast as Cary Elwes) and the vampire hunter who was always my favourite, Quincey Morris (Bill Campbell).
If I ignore the stupid desecration that is the Oldman/Ryder romance, then there’s plenty to enjoy. The sets, costume designs and cinematography are simply beautiful. There are some ingenious ideas where the laws of physics just do not apply – such as shadows roaming randomly – which create a supernatural world. And there is enough respect for the novel in various other ways that Coppola’s Dracula is irresistible to watch. Not to mention plenty of blood and dismemberment, and some true horror.
So despite holding my head in my hands and screaming “WHY?!” to the heavens, Dracula is still a must see. But please folks, read the book. Repressed Victorian sexuality and fears of the outsider may be present there, but “Dracula” is no love story.