Saturday, October 26, 2013

Like It or Not, Dracula is alive, but will he stay that way?

Readers take note: There are spoilers here that would ruin the experience of watching the series premiere on your own time so if you have not watched it yet, I suggest you watch NBC's Dracula first before reading my review below. Thank you.

Jonathan Rhys Myers could arguably be described as his generation's Malcolm McDowell in that the actor is able to take difficult protagonists in dramas and even antagonists and make the viewer both like and dislike him at the same time. His previous roles include Chiron in Titus, Steerpike in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast and what he is perhaps best known for on the American side of The Pond, as King Henry VIII in The Tudors. So it should be no surprise that when a new television series is developed based on the classic tale of Dracula, Myers is cast in the title role as the Count who in this incarnation passes himself off as an American in Victorian London out to avenge himself on the Order of the Dragon, a group that has thwarted the vampire before and has now become akin to secret society of blue bloods more interested in securing their own wealth than necessarily killing vampires though it is clearly noted in the premiere in dialogue and action that it is indeed something they do.

There are some twists on the tale that make things a bit more interesting like having Thomas Kretschmann is an amoral Van Helsing, who is responsible for freeing Dracula from his prison. Renfield is not a bug eating, raving madman, but rather a calm familiar played by Nonso Anozie, who appeared in the second season of HBO's Game of Thrones. Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a Journalist in this version while aside from Dracula's origins dating back to the historical Vlad Dracula, the only element that seems familiar to the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola version, which to date is supposed to be the most faithful film produced based on Bram Stoker's novel is Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) being a kind of literal physical reincarnation of Dracula's late wife, who was burned alive by the very group he now has come to destroy. Please note that the entire Vlad Dracula sequence in the Coppola film was an addition made by both screenwriter James V. Hart and Director Francis Ford Coppola and the Stoker book has no origin story like that within.

I like the period look of the show and not all of the changes bother me and it certainly feels less like a typical network broadcast show than it does a hybrid overseas import, but I can't decide whether I liked it or hated it and I think that this is the type of show it is going to be. Either viewers will tune in and or record it every week or they will simply tune out and Dracula's resurrection won't last another two weeks. Such is the nature of primetime broadcast free over the air American network television. If it doesn't pull in viewers quickly it simply will at best be shelved till an off viewing season. 

The series is co-production between creative forces behind both Downtown Abbey and The Tudors, which account's for it's distinct and refreshing non American primetime network TV feel. Hopefully the fate of this show will be that it develops a loyal following if only because a lot of network television drama is either hospital, lawyer, or police detective soap operas and the last thing I want to see return is more reality TV. So I am going to watch it and see what happens. Hopefully it won't disappoint and you all will watch it too.

(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
All Rights Reserved.