I had high hopes for NBC’s remake of Dracula. It’s an ambitious project: rehash a story that’s been rehashed to distraction, and make it fresh and interesting. And there are many things in their version that are very intriguing. But, after watching the premier episode, I was left strangely bereft and, err, thirsting for something more substantial.
There were a number of character departures from Bram Stoker’s original story, some of which may prove integral to the new version, some of which were jarring. I’m hoping the jarring ones get smoothed out in future episodes.
Mina Murray is a medical student; her professor is Van Helsing. Jonathan Harker is a journalist. Lucy Westenra is still an existentialist, thank goodness, as I can’t envision her in any other role. Those are OK, in my mind. Mina, in the novel, was an intelligent woman who longed for a bigger role in society but was limited by the social climes in those days. Jonathan kept a detailed diary, so a journalist is not a huge stretch for him.
Then there’s Dracula and his minion, R.M. Renfield.
First, let me say I was excited that Jonathan Rhys Meyers was cast in the title role. The character of Dracula is, after all, a dark one. Mr. Meyers is dark: dark hair, dark eyes, dark facial expression and, one imagines, dark soul. He was gloriously egotistical and vicious in his role as Henry VIII in “The Tutors”. (I’ll set aside the wildly historical inaccuracies of that series for a moment.) I can see him filling the role of a vicious, predatory creature such as Dracula with ease. And he did. For the most part.
His accents were what bothered me. Dracula is from Romania, for Pete’s sake, where they chew on their words before letting them trickle out of their mouths. Dracula has an English accent and, as Alexander Greyson, a really awful American accent. Jarring.
Then there’s Renfield. This R.M. Renfield is an enormous African American, fully self-possessed, and often openly critical of Dracula’s actions. Perhaps they had their reasons, but it’s too much of a departure, in my humble opinion, from the cringing, subservient Renfield one expects. Again, jarring. Maybe I’ll get used to it. We’ll see.
There was a small, seemingly insignificant scene, that bothered me. Renfield informs Harker that “Greyson” requests an interview, scheduled at 4:30 the following evening. Now, it’s not clear what time of the year the story takes place, but I’m fairly certain that the sun never sets before 4:30 PM in London. Why would Dracula invite someone into his home before sunset when the first thing that person does, given the gloom of the parlor he’s in compels him to open the shutters? And in streams the glorious sun, which gives “Greyson” pause when he enters and greets Harker. Of course, Harker holds out his hand to shake, right in the path of that poisonous stream of sunlight. It not only caused Dracula pain, it caused considerable pain in this viewer as well.
So, enough bitching. There were some very lovely scenes; one in particular stands out in my mind. “Greyson” is invited to opening night at the opera by Lady Jayne, who requests he discretely join her in her private box. He has his own box at the opera, though, but he’s intrigued by her invitation. So, he generously offers to lend his box to none other than Jonathan and Mina for the evening. Is this so that he can glare across the opera hall at the pair while he munches on Lady Jayne? Maybe so, but it was a nice bit of glaring and munching. He’s pushing all Lady Jayne’s buttons, apparently, so much so that she bites her lip hard enough to draw blood. I loved that very sweet, very short scene where Dracula gently licks the blood from her lips while uttering the word “unquenchable”. Ooo… delicious.
I will continue to watch the series, of course. How can I not? But I truly hope the kinks are ironed out and some of the choices the creators made will not prove its undoing.