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Friday, April 04, 2014

TV Review:Dracula

This is for the NBC series. Someday, I'll get around to reviewing the book.

Attractive or just creepy?
Premise:A vampire plots to destroy the organization that killed his wife.

Cast:Jonathan Rhys Meyer as Dracula, Thomas Kretschman as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Jessica De Gouw as Mina Murray, Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Johnathan Harker, Victoria Smurfit as Lady Jane Wetherby, Nonso Anozie as Renfield, Ben Miles as Browning, Katie McGrath as Lucy Westenra, Rober Bathurst as Lord Thomas Davenport

Genres:Fantasy, romance, drama, horror

Notes:Poster taken from IMDB and belongs to NBC.

Pros:Vampires aren't portrayed as misunderstood beings. Interesting characters. Good acting.

Cons:Anachronistically political correctness. The first season finale leaves something to be desired. Inconsistent with how one turns into a vampire.

There are only about oh, 10 dozen adaptions and variations based on Bram Stoker's famous novel. This is merely the latest. And no, it isn't any more faithful to the book than the others. For one thing, Van Helsing is an associate of our favorite vampire rather than his enemy. For another, Dracula poses as an American businessman. He isn't presented as ugly or as a metaphorical rapist (though he has an active sex "life") and is in love with Mina Murray. He isn't the only one...

As with many vampire series, this one features plenty of sex and blood. Think a romance mixed with a horror movie and set it in 19th century England. The characters and the actting are some of the series' strongest points. I liked Nonso Anozie as Reinfield. And it's interesting watching some of them start as good and honest people, but then turn into monsters.

Here, truly good people are scarce. Dracula serves as a dark anti-hero if not a straight-up villain protagonist. He kills people to feed, resorts to ruthless methods to destroy his business rivals, and even murders an old comrade to trick an enemy. One of his associates kidnaps the children of someone he hates with revenge on his mind. Other characters starts out as decent people, but soon find themselves betraying the ones they love. Basically, the protagonists are just as bad as the antagonists.

One thing that bugs me about this series is the unnecessary political correctness/social commentary. The society within the show is sexist and homophobic, but of course the main characters are not. This comes off as less an intelligent comment on prejudice and more "that's wrong, don't do that."

There's a bit of confusion over how the vampires are "born" in this series. Sometimes they only drink vampire blood; but there's one turns almost immediately after being bitten. Yet another drinks blood and is bitten, but it takes at least a day for her to turn. Overall, they don't really make it know how vampirism happens.

At the time I'm writing this, I don't know if there will be a second season (I hope there will be). If you decide to watch it, expect steamy romance and horror-movie violence.

Sex:Some innuendo. Characters have sex, showing skin, but of course nothing R-rated. A woman's dress is torn in such a manner that it resembles modern day underwear. The titular vampire goes shirtless a few times. Plenty of 19th century cleavage is on display, which Dracula likes to get close to. He has shared sexual experiences with several women (while eating many of them) and carries on an affair with a woman working for the Order. But his true focus is on Mina Murray, an aspiring doctor who closely resembles his murdered wife.
Alexander Grayson follows one of his rivals to some kind of club and sees the man kissing his boyfriend. Grayson points out while he does not care whom a man chooses to love, others are not so open-minded. Onstage in this club is a guy dressed in drag. I'm not sure whether this is an old-fashioned gay club or it's just that men were the only actors in some points in history.
A woman is shown to have a crush on her female friend. Another woman (a villainous one) explains that such desires are perfectly natural and that she (the first woman) should make a move. I'm not sure if our dear bad girl truly means it or if she's trying to sabotage the relationship. Although, the crush they're discussing is a romantic rival for the lady villain, which could mean she's trying to get the other woman out of the way. There's subtext between these two (they eventually kiss) and one gives the other seduction tips.

Violence:Like I said, lots of blood. Throats are sliced and bitten. Heads get chopped off, smashed in, and blown to bits. Vampires burst into flames and rip people apart. Flashbacks show a woman being burnt at the stake and a family being trapped inside a burning building. None survive.
A man is tortured. The actual violence takes place offscreen, not that it's any less wince-inducing. Three men attack a woman and threaten to burn off her skin with acid. Someone else goes after her attackers, ripping one's arm off and leaving their corpses on a fence. Dracula is electrocuted and injected with lots of needles. Vampire hunters kill their prey using such weapons as swords and holy water.

Language:D**n, b****rd, p*ss.

Drugs and Alcohol:Some social drinking. People smoke. Depending on how you look at it, Dracula's bloodlust could be a drug metaphor.

Spiritual:Vampires here are presented as cursed beings that crave blood. Holy water kills them and crosses repel them. Garlic isn't too popular among them either. Dracula calls Mina his wife reborn. There are indications that she is indeed the reincarnation of the vampire's unfortunate love.
Seers use supernatural means to track vampires (and vice versa). The Order of the Dragon is based on religious terrorism. They claim to uphold the Word of God (my friend wondered why they would name their organization after a dragon if that was the case), but work more like a cult. They respond with reverence when an artifact containing the blood of Christ is brought in.

So what were your thoughts?

© 2014 by M.R.R.
All rights reserved.


Enchantress said...

Is that a theme of Dracula

I see so many posts about it :) Good Read and love the pics

Rebekah Loper said...

Hm, I've heard some about the show Dracula (and tried to actually read the book, and just... couldn't get through it. Older classics did not have the benefit of editors, sadly.) but not read as indepth of a review as you have provided.

I'm definitely interested in aspects of it, but I don't know if it's the kind of show I'd sit down and watch just to watch. It sounds more like a show I'd want to analyze.

~Rebekah Loper
Fantastical Ponderings - The A-Zs of Worldbuilding
The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

M.R. R. said...

@ Enchantress
Thanks. I was going to post about death at first, but that wasn't coming along well, so I used a review I had.

@Rebekah Loper
I often need to read junior editions of old classics to understand what's happening. Ironically, Dracula was one of the few I didn't need to do that with.
And analyzing shows and movies is one of the fun parts if you ask me.

Megan Lee said...

I really appreciated and completely agreed with this review. I started out watching this show, but I got so tired of the anachronistic elements that I finally quit. I also got a little bored with the body count. I think the show suffered at attempt at being "modern" and edgy. Subtlety is much more interesting and intriguing.

M.R. R. said...

@ Megan Lee
Sometimes you need to be blatant, but yeah, there is something to be said for subtlety.