Dracula as an unlikely American industrialist

Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as Dracula, who is reinvented as Alexander Grayson, an American industrialist.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as Dracula, who is reinvented as Alexander Grayson, an American industrialist. (JONATHAN HESSION / NBC)
Posted: October 25, 2013

It's hard to blame Jonathan Rhys Meyers for signing up to star in - and produce - NBC's neo-Gothic, Victorian-period thriller, Dracula, which premieres Friday at 10 p.m. following Grimm's third season opener.

The Tudors heartthrob, who gave female fans shudders as Henry VIII, looks so good in those billowy white shirts that thesps since Valentino and Errol Flynn have worn in period dramas, it would have been hard to pass up the chance to play another monstrously ravenous, impeccably-dressed seducer and killer of women.

Wish he had.

A lavish production outfitted with the best in costumes, sets, period weapons, digital effects, hellaciously hot costars (Victoria Smurfit, Jessica De Gouw, Katie McGrath), and grisly extras, Dracula is nonetheless one of the most ill-conceived, mind-numbingly stupid dramas to come our way in decades.

It's a messy, derivative bouillabaisse of half-baked ideas cherry-picked from every source imaginable - from Bram Stoker to Dan Brown, Alexandre Dumas to the Kabbalah Centre and Marvel Comics. Rhys Meyers portrays the eponymous antihero not as a monster as in Stoker's novel, or a tragic lover as per Francis Ford Coppola's flick, but as a wrongfully imprisoned nobleman.

See, centuries ago, a killer cabal of conspirators seized the Drac-man, killed his lovely wife, and locked him away in an iron cage in a marble tomb. Called the Order of the Dragon, the cabal has controlled the course of world history, using religious persecution and superstition to rile up the masses.

(Calling Dan Brown. Where are you, Dan Brown?)

The cabal continues to flourish in 1880s London when one of Dracula's greatest admirers, Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), tracks down the Drac's tomb and sets him free!

Van Helsing, whose wife also was killed by the Dragons, forges an unholy alliance with the vampire to seek revenge on the order. The duo decide to go after the order's economic hegemony over Europe (um, why?), so they reinvent Dracula as an American industrialist named Alexander Grayson.

After a decade spent making a fortune - and learning which fork to use for the first course - Dracula-as-Grayson shows up in London with an amazing piece of tech he says will save the world's energy needs. It can generate clean, efficient, green fuel.

Thus begins the war: Grayson's invention threatens the Order of the Dragon, since they've built their wealth and power by controlling the world's oil industry.

(And suddenly we're in Michael Moore territory: Cut automobile emissions or I'll suck your blood!)

Dracula/Grayson has a secret weapon in this war. He hires journalist Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) to work for him in a newly invented post: head of public relations. It's his job to convince investors and the public that oil is bad, and Grayson's alternate energy good.

As if that weren't enough, the pilot also reveals that Jonathan's girlfriend, medical student Mina Murray (De Gouw), is the reincarnation of Dracula's beloved wife.

Dracula features solid performances from the principals, lovely lighting, and evocative cinematography. Shame it's so thoroughly, utterly, irredeemably potty.


TELEVISION REVIEW

Dracula

10 p.m. Friday on NBC 10


tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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