TYPE OF REVIEW : FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW
Moderate premiere spoilers.
Yes, I went there.
But it’s really the perfect way to describe NBC’s “reimagining” of Dracula. The 10 episode limited series is visually stunning and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is quite a looker himself of course (as is the rest of the cast), but the story leaves much to be desired. Without that “bite,” there isn’t much to get excited about or engaged in. At least in the first episode.
In this retelling of the classic story, Dracula heads to London posing as American entrepreneur Alexander Grayson who hopes to introduce a new technology powering wireless lightbulbs through geomagnetism. But it’s all a front to allow Dracula to wipe out the Order of the Dragon, a sort of illuminati organization raping and pillaging their way to world domination while also hunting vampires.
And during Dracula’s beginning his plan, he encounters a woman who looks just like the love of his life, who of course is long dead. But they both share a strange connection.
Now on paper, both these main threads seem pretty interesting and enough to hold one’s interest for ten episodes (which is what NBC has ordered). But somehow, the premiere diluted any excitement of that basic setup and even seemed to make a simple premise feel overly complicated at the same time.
There wasn’t anything particularly bad or cringe-worthy about the premiere, but it lacked that “bite,” that oomph that gets you hooked. Airing after Grimm on Fridays is great as they both complement each other (and Grimm has long needed a compatible partner). But when Grimm has packed so much into its premiere episodes, it’s hard to imagine why Dracula wasn’t able to.
The most exciting parts of the premiere were two scenes which I would rather see more of. First, the scene where Alexander Grayson, in his incredibly opulent ballroom, demonstrates his wireless light bulb to the crowd. There was a wonderfully steampunk element to the entire scene. Displaying technological and futuristic advancements in a late 19th century, Victorian England setting can be very fascinating. The steampunk visuals of the boiler room made me wish the series was more Jules Verne and maybe less bloodsucking.
The second scene is the rooftop face off between Dracula and Kruger. In Korea, there are fusion saeguks, historical dramas produced with contemporary flair. Not the usual stuffy and stiff period productions, but slick, action-heavy and special effects filled thrillers. This scene on the rooftop reminded me of those Korean dramas. The wire-fu and action choreography of that scene is very slick and contemporary, yet set atop a cobbled rooftop with the participants wearing 19th century clothes. In fact, the musical scoring also evokes a contemporary edginess as well.
Now a steampunk fusion saeguk? That would be two of my favorite genres in one show right there. And I think emphasizing those elements to make for even more engaging visuals will make up for a less than engaging story.
Reimagining classic stories is definitely something I am a fan of when done well and excitingly. And Dracula certainly tries. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was made for the role and his natural charisma works perfectly for Dracula’s suave and sexy characterization here.
Potential. I always see potential in shows and always get disappointed in the end when they drop the ball. Though beautifully shot and visually stunning, Dracula hasn’t hooked me. However, I am not quite ready to dismiss it altogether just yet.
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