I really enjoyed that! Dracula 2000 (or Dracula 2001, as they had to rename it by the time it had reached Britain) is a fun, lively piece of nonsense with great ideas and lots of pace. It may sometimes be silly, but at least that's better than being boring.
It opens with the Ship of Death from Bram Stoker's novel. That looks great! There's some nice mood, with imaginative visuals. In fact the movie's first act is all good, apart from Jonny Lee Miller's "acting" and a big logic hole. Why would Van Helsing want those stupid, stupid traps? There's plenty of action, but also some tension. When the coffin was being opened, I jumped. I'm not being ironic or sarcastic when I say that everything in Dracula 2000 until the appearance of Dracula himself is damn good.
But then we see Dracula. This is where you might start sniggering.
Gerard Butler plays the Count, which is probably a sign of the impending apocalypse. Has the world gone mad? This man doesn't want to bite open your throat, but instead wants to get his hair styled and appear on the cover of Vogue. He's a pretty boy with puppy-dog eyes and Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen hair. What's more, the film's got that Sexy Vampire thing going on. He kills men, but with women he stares meaningfully into their eyes and turns them into mesmerised drool queens. This is merely silly, but I was shocked to see that the women don't even wear transparent nightdresses after being vampirised! I'm appalled. Have these people never seen a Hammer film? Couldn't Jeri Ryan have flashed her titties? Would that have been too much to ask?
Anyway, none of Dracula's scenes are remotely scary. On the contrary he's unintentionally hilarious, mincing through the movie as women practically swoon at his feet, presumably as a result of making dubious assumptions about his sexuality. In fact, no vampire here is frightening. There are still some juicily effective scenes even after Dracula's awakening, but all of them are when the bloodsuckers are offscreen.
The rest of the cast is variable. Jonny Lee Miller is truly dreadful at times, but he does an entertaining Bruce Campbell machismo. There's also one vampire who's hilarious, with some of the best comic timing I've ever seen from the undead. Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing is okay. There's a Mina Harker figure (well, "Mary"), complete with a friend called Lucy Westenra... sorry, Westerman. Mary likes wearing a Virgin T-shirt, a dodge from the film-makers which is shameless on at least two levels. Even leaving aside the horror movie cliches, the product placement here must be seen to be believed. In years to come, geeks will probably see this as most memorable for putting Jeri Ryan (Star Trek) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly) in the same film.
Did I mention the ideas? The script has some great concepts, taking in Van Helsing, Mary and a secret origin of Dracula himself. That's clever. I loved it all. Dracula's story explains a whole parcel of disconnected vampire lore, from the indestructible Hammer Dracula to the religious iconography. They even tie in with something that I think they got confused with werewolves. No matter; these are some funky revelations. Though wasn't Van Helsing taking a hell of a risk over the years? One might have expected nasty consequences from his actions, though I imagine Mary would say the consequences were quite far-reaching enough already.
Obviously this isn't going to win Academy Awards, but it's not trying to. It knows what it wants to be, which is good silly fun. Things get perhaps a tad Buffy-ish towards the end, but despite this I thought the final confrontations were cool. Those aforementioned secrets kick in big-time for an ending that I really liked, for once even giving Dracula a reason for fixating upon his latest woman. Dracula gets the by-now traditional attempts at sympathy, in which the film-makers invite us to see him as a more human figure, but thankfully these bits are: (a) better than they might have been, and (b) not overdone. He's still a monster.
This film spawned two direct-to-video sequels, Dracula II: Ascension (2003) and Dracula III: Legacy (2005). Apparently they were shot back-to-back and give us two more Draculas, played by Stephen Billington (who?) and Rutger Hauer (no, really?), in addition to having Roy Scheider in a supporting role.
This film is a Dracula for the music video generation, but that doesn't make it bad. Dumb, yes, but in its own way Dracula 2000 has some clever ideas, imaginative visuals, decent special effects (their severed heads are halfway convincing!), effective tension and exciting action. The cinematography's by Peter Pau, oddly enough in the same year that he won an Oscar for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Of course this film's sometimes pretty stupid, but I'd expected worse. Be prepared to laugh in derision at the dafter moments, but in between there's a lot to enjoy here. I still can't believe they cast Gerard Butler, though.