Dracula 2000 was lifeless. It had no soul. It bit.
Did I get all the bad puns out of the way? Good. Now on with the review.
I ignore reviews, and even facts like the lack of a press screening; I have a much lower tolerance for entertainment than most, and so I don't really care if Roger Ebert thought the movie was terrible. Plus, I don't want any surprises ruined. I saw the combination of vampire and Wes Craven, who is at least responsible for the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises, and got reasonably excited: Heavy metal vampires. Cool. Like Lost Boys, only heavier.
Wes Craven did nothing more than executive produce, by the way. And did I mention that the screenwriter also wrote Highlander: Endgame?
The film takes an interesting look at the Dracula mythos and reinterprets it, bringing it to the current day and bridging the worlds of Stoker and the Apostles to create a new history for the character. It is a logical validation of a lot of Dracula's weaknesses (crucifixes, holy water, silver). On the other hand, it ignores weaknesses that don't fit into the story (like garlic), and makes Dracula's Achilles Heels nothing more than psychosomatic phobias.
The film opens with nods to Stoker's classic, showing the fateful voyage of the Demeter to London in 1897, then cutting to modern day London and Carfax Antiquities, an antiques business run by Abraham Van Helsing, the grandson of the character from the novel. The story explains the return of the dark prince through a brief Tomb Raider / Mission Impossible scene, followed by a setting shift to New Orleans, where Dracula is now on the loose.
It's Mardi Gras, but rather than setting the streets awash with the blood of innocents, Dracula is looking for a girl named Mary, who works at Virgin records (get it?).
The film is not badly directed. There are moments of fine cinema present. Largely, it aspires to an MTV status, with rapid jumpcuts and flashy technique, but given the material, this isn't terrible. The cinematography and scoring are both appropriate and well-done, heightening the modern day supernatural effect, although the New Orleans setting is cliched, given the haunted nature of the town and the Anne Rice novels.
Unfortunately, the best technical elements could not possibly overcome the limp sceenplay. The problems range from bad dialogue (made worse by half-hearted delivery) to plot holes the size of small European countries. Worst, though, is the identity crisis the film has.
It seems the director or writer was so intent on making a kewl hip flick that they crammed a technogeek break-in, Matrix fight scenes, and the usual idiotic behavior of characters in splatter flicks into four reels of film. The horror atmosphere holds, but just barely.
The acting ranges from flatly uninspired (Jonny Lee Miller as Simon, who did far better in both Trainspotting and the underrated and mindlessly fun Hackers) to the cheesy (Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing). One more pronunciation of Dracula as "Drakoolia" and I would have killed the movie screen.
Jennifer Esposito does a fine job as the seductive concubine, and Jeri Ryan seems to have a little fun with her image as the reporter-turned-vampire, but all the others with minor roles do their best to go through the motions. Perhaps with better material, the strong personalities of Omar Epps and Danny Masterson might have shown through, but not here.
In the two lead roles, Gerard Butler does a passable Dracula, but he achieves neither the menace nor the charm that Dracula has always been portrayed with, instead coming across as a soap opera vampire. Justine Waddell as Virgin's Mary is perhaps the most convincing of the lot, but she seems horribly out of place here, as though she would rather be in Jane Eyre than bastardized Bram Stoker.
Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 would be a good Halloween rental, if only to see the interesting (if half baked) history Dracula has been given. Otherwise, avoid the film, unless you really want to pay $8 to see one hour and forty minutes that can't decide whether it should be teen slasher flick, Mission Impossible, The Matrix, or just a really long Virgin Records advertisement.