Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Dementia 13 (1963), The Godfather (1972)).
Written by James V. Hart (Hook (1991), Muppet Treasure Island (1996)).
Starring: Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci, Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant and others.
I won’t dwelve much into plot details, because if you don’t know what happens in Dracula by now, you probably don’t care to find out anyway. Coppola decided to do a little more faithful adaptation of the novel and called it Bram Stoker’s Dracula, however, how its faithfulness is debatable.
Right from the start and throughout the movie we get some amazing visuals, which are even more impressive because they’re all practical. The movie also has this otherworldly, dreamlike quality.
One interesting thing is that we are provided with more insight into Dracula’s character than in the novel, and he now is less of a villain and just a tragic figure, he is basically an anti-hero and way more likable than the protagonist. We first are introduced to Dracula in a very bad state, he looks old, frail and has an absurd looking wig/hairstyle. Gary Oldman is great casting for the role, but then again, when is he not a great casting choice.
Then, when Dracula gets to London, he starts looking as a young man again and for some reason he walks around the city in daylight. In the novel Dracula was mentioned being able to turn into a wolf, but even though it looked cool, they went overboard here and made him turn into a fucking werewolf, nice effects, but still.
I don’t hate him, but I wonder why some filmmakers cast Keanu Reeves in serious dramatic roles, it’s clear he has a very limited range, he can play a certain type, but it is definitely not Jonathan Harker, the horribly stilted accent he’s doing doesn’t help either.
Jonathan Harker is an odd character, because in all adaptations, that have him arrive at Dracula’s castle, he is very oblivious about all the strange things going on around him. Here they do that as well, but it is sort of explained. He notices all the weird shit, but is just too polite to say anything and after all, Count Dracula is an important client, but still, he should be more creeped out, especially in homoerotic scenes, like one, where Dracula is shaving him.
Winona Ryder is another odd casting choice. I like her just fine, but she doesn’t make any sense as Mina Murray. There’s also Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, which is a good, yet uninspired choice. I wish he had been in Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein, then he would have been in all the modern versions of Universal Horror’s „big three”.
I wouldn’t call this a horror movie though, it’s more of a psychological thriller, exploring the themes of sexuality. And it’s very unbalanced overall. It is the most interesting portrayal of Dracula, yet the least interesting of all the other characters. It is a very well-made and cool looking movie, but not very involving and after a while becomes even slightly dull. Coppola seems to pay great attention to details, yet lose the sight of the picture as a whole.
Also I think of Dracula as a very hard novel to adapt, because of its unconventional format. It consists of letters, diary entries and telegrams, which makes the narrative subjective and constantly changing perspectives, when you apply conventional movie structure to something like that, it tends to fall apart.
Overall, it’s not a great movie, but probably the best adaptation of the novel. I felt it was, in a way, style over substance type of deal, which is weird, since the movie is very much about the characters and romance. I don’t know, I have mixed feelings, but still – recommended.