Dracula, Season 1 (2013)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Modern screenwriters simply don't know what to do with Bram Stoker's vampire. There have been so many retellings of the novel over the years that writers are forced to re-imagine the tale, often with the result of transforming Stoker's cold, remorseless murderer into a tragic anti-hero. This recent production takes the absurdity a level further by making its morals decidedly anti-Victorian.
This “re-imagining” of Bram Stoker’s classic novel has a lot going for it… and a lot going against it. It’s an enticing, Steampunk-esque look at Victorian England with plenty of twists and turns, but also an unfortunate amount of trashiness.
Unbeknown to the high society of London, a monster walks among them – in the form of Count Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Under the guise of an American businessman known as Alexander Grayson, the vampire mingles with society with the intention of taking down the Order of the Dragon, an ancient, evil organization known for its diabolical nature. He isn’t alone in this endeavor, but has the backing of Professor Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), and the assistance of his loyal manservant, Rensfield (Nonso Anozie). If anything can throw Dracula off his game, it’s Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), a medical student who bears more than a passing resemblance to his long-dead wife. Her fiancé, Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), is a well-known journalist that seems to have an inkling that Alexander Grayson isn’t what he appears to be. But he has no trouble charming everyone else – including the beautiful Lucy Wenestra (Katie McGrath), and the dangerous Lady Jane (Victoria Smurfit), an assassin for the Order of the Dragon.
This luxurious adaptation has its ups (a terrific cast and smart plots) and its downs (absurd costuming and too much gore and tasteless sexuality). It bears absolutely no real resemblance to the original and falls into the usual clichés of a murder vindicated through revenge. Dracula and Van Helsing lost both their families to the Order, which allows them to take diabolical measures to avenge past wrongs. The problem is that no one is even remotely likable, except for Mina, whose innocent naivety makes you sorry she's wrapped up in this mess. Dracula is temperamental and vindictive. Van Helsing looks heroic until he reveals his true nature. Jonathan begins as a controlling, selfish jerk who turns into a co-conspirator in murder and sabotage. And even Lucy falls prey to petty revenge that includes seducing her best friend's fiancé. When the script can't come up with anything intelligent, it tosses in an out-of-period sexual dalliance.
Rather than try and adhere to any realities of the morals and ethics of the period, this series has well-bred upper class Victorian ladies bed-hopping without concern for their reputation. It flouts hypocrisy in the methods of the Order by claiming their actions are of God, while simultaneously breaking all of His commandments. Furthermore, it expects us to believe a ludicrous premise that the Order would intentionally create a vampire rather than simply killing an enemy, effectively leaving them with decades of bloody aftermath (how short sighted on their part). There are some good moments and it has a fine cast, but the absurdity of it all and the over-reliance on shock value additions make it rather a forgettable affair.
Same sex kisses (two men kiss
and embrace, and wake up in bed together; a woman makes
overtures to another woman; two women passionately kiss).
Multiple implied sex scenes and other scenes of sexual
titillation (men put their fingers up women's skirts and
between their legs; some sexual movements in bed and heavy
breathing). Lots of cleavage.
Occasional mild profanities and abuses of God's name.
Heads and arms are torn off, leaving bloody stumps. Vampires are impaled, staked, shot, and ripped apart. Humans are brutally attacked have their throats torn out; lots of carnage, gore, and blood. Explosions go off, frying people with electricity and causing a massive explosion that leaves hundreds dead in the street. Men are tortured in various ways (fingers broken, stabbed, and one man has his vampire children set on him).
Social drinking. Adultery. References to seers, magic, seeing the future, and witchcraft, with a negative portrayal of faith and Christian beliefs.