Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Dracula gets too much shit. While it’s good and proper to make fun of Keanu Reeves’ mind-boggling accent as Jonathan Harker, most of the other criticisms levied at the movie—that its plot is messy and its characters too broad—are actually pretty true to the original Bram Stoker novel. If you can get past these details, Coppola’s vision is a great time. Its excellent costumes have given us a Dracula who looks like this, its casting featured Tom Waits nailing a turn as the pest-munching Renfield, and its insistence on using mostly practical rather than computer-generated effects means it looks fantastic and otherworldly.
YouTube channel Cinefix has provided reasons to remember all of this in a recent video that, by looking at the differences between Bram Stoker’s Dracula and, uh, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, mostly just highlights the fact that the 1992 movie is in fact good and cool.
Along the way, the clip discusses the major discrepancies. When you read the Stoker novel, for instance, you do not get an opening scene where a 15th century Dracula mourns a tragically lost love by stabbing a cross with a sword and soaking himself in blood while wearing alien-looking armor. While this backstory means Coppola introduces a fateful romance between Dracula and Mina Harker, it doesn’t stand in the way of more important similarities regarding character descriptions, important plot points, and thematic elements. It also doesn’t stop the movie from generally capturing what’s best about the novel: the unsettling, nightmare images associated with Dracula and his minion’s vampirism.
In the end, Cinefix’s comparison video shows that, sure, Coppola hasn’t quite made the definitive Dracula adaptation, but that he’s probably come the closest to it since 1922's Nosferatu. All of the important stuff is carried over and the changes, even when delivered by a community theater Shakespeare-inspired Reeves, don’t get in the way of communicating the feel of the original book. Also, once again, Coppola gave us the best Renfield cinema may ever see. That, on its own, is worth celebrating.
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