This retelling of Dracula starts off in 1462 as Vlad Dracula heads off into battle against the Turks. While he's away his enemies tell his fiancee that he died on the battlefield, which causes her to become so distraught that she throws herself off the castle walls. When he discovers this news, he gets so mad that he curses hard enough at a stone cross to crack it and defiantly swears that he's going to conquer death just to spite God. The movie skips to four hundred years later, which is convenient because then it doesn't have to explain exactly how he figured out how to conquer death. (I have to assume that other human beings in history drank blood without suddenly growing the ability to control wolves with their mind, so he probably knows something they don't.) Now the centuries old Dracula is living in a castle with his three vampire brides, none of whom apparently ever explained to him that if he was bummed out about his dead love that much that maybe having a shorter life is a less painful option than having to wallow in that misery for centuries.
This origin story has an appropriately mythic quality to it, but it's also pretty strange when you think about it. Having watched a full season of Big Love (the show about polygamy in a Mormon family) I can say for sure that one man with three brides can create a lot of awkward situations, none of which the movie goes into. For example, at one point the brides are trying to snack on a visitor to their castle and Dracula has to break it up, rightly pointing out to them that this is a tacky thing to do. They then ask their undead husband if he wants them to go hungry, and then he says no, he's just come back from the local village with a doggy bag with a human baby in it. The four of them proceed to split the baby, which just has to involve some complicated head placements. It makes sense that wolves would all be able to share a kill at the same time because they have small heads and big mouths, but we're the opposite, and babies are a very small target for four full grown humans to all try to have their mouths on simultaneously. (If ever there was going to be a game worthy of the title "murder twister" this is probably it.) I suppose they get through this with no hurt feelings (well, maybe the mom of the baby is hurt, but we'll never know, she isn't a character), so maybe these vampires have a more open and honest relationship than most people do. I've definitely seen some pretty harsh words exchanged when a significant other kept snaking their hand out to steal a fry off of someone else's plate, and this seems like a more tense situation all around.
The fact that Vlad has been eating babies from the village for four hundred years creates a real problem for the movie's theology, actually. The plot here is kicked into gear when Dracula realizes that his beloved fiancee has been reincarnated, and his hunt for her sets into motion events that (spoiler alert?) end his reign of terror. After his reincarnated bride stabs him through the heart he turns back into the Vlad of 1462 and the crack in the cross magically heals itself, suggesting that maybe he was being a bit of a stubborn grumpypants with the whole "I'm so mad at God that I'm going to turn myself into an immortal murderer thing". But keep in mind that God could have reincarnated Dracula's love at any time to give his story some closure and He waited 400 years. Now assuming that there are five generations in a century - which is very conservative given that most parents in the middle ages started having kids in their teens, not their twenties - that's still 20 generations of people who had to watch the weird old dude from the castle on the mountain eat their newborns without God doing anything about it. America as a country is less than three hundred years old, so if Dracula had decided to give God the finger during the Revolutionary War, we'd still be nearly 40 preisdential terms away from when He'd get off his ass to fix this problem. The God of this movie is supposed to be good, but he's definitely a bit lethargic.
All kidding around aside, this movie is preeeetttyy sweet. The set design, costumes and make up are at all time highs, creating a luscious look that perfectly fits the not-quite-campy-but-not-quite-straight-either tone. The designs are ornate but also odd, so they are imposing enough to be impressive, but they aren't stuffy enough that they are at odds with Gary Oldman's scenery chewing turn as Dracula. And what a performance Oldman gives! It might be among my all time favorite performances, because he commits fully to the material to great effect, inhabiting a warrior, a lover, a shuffling old man, and a weirdo who licks other people's shaving razors with equal aplomb. There are parts of this movie that are uneven (not all the performances are equal to Oldman's, sadly), but that doesn't really matter when there's so much about it that's nigh upon unbeatable.