1st Ever “Book 2 Screen”/”Bad Movie Night” Review: Vampire Academy

Man, did I choose the wrong week to stop drinking. Alright, let’s do this bullcrap.

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Cashing in on the slowly festering wound that was the vampire craze, Vampire Academy is a movie that should have never seen theaters based on a young adult novel that should have never been printed.

To it’s merit, Richelle Mead’s young adult paranormal romance novel series is a best selling series of 6 books with a devoted fanbase. Then again, so were Twilight and it’s fanfiction counterpart 50 Shades of Grey. Best seller status and a devoted fanbase does not, a good story make.

Vampire Academy is the first in a series of 6 novels that revolves around the character Rosemarie Hathaway a 17-year old dhampir (half human/ half vampire). She is in training to be a guardian to her best friend Lissa Dragomir, a Moroi (mortal Vampire) and trains under the supervision of her mentor Dimitri (another Dhampir guardian) while they attend the St. Vladimir’s academy. Rose and Lissa have a bond that allows Rose to know what Lissa is feeling and even to enter Lissa’s mind. When Lissa begins to show off strange new abilities, Rose does everything in her power to protect her friend from the evils of… high school! Dun Dun Dun! Oh yeah, and the Evil Murderous Unfeeling Immortal Vampires called Strigoi. But not really. Rose never actually fights any Strigoi successfully in this book. Mainly, she becomes the subject of and spreads a lot of gossip around the school and flirts with every boy she meets.

The novel, tells a story that may be relatable to many young girls. The issues they deal with include the ill affects of school gossip, slut shaming, mental health issues, depression and bipolar disorder, self mutilation, inappropriate relationships with older male figures, and issues with authority – all with a mythos that combines the excitement and extravagance of vampirism, royal hierarchies, and magic.

It’s basically Mean Girls meets “Twilight Goes to Hogwarts”.

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The reason this series and it’s mythology is disappointing is because, like many people who’ve become fatigued by the ‘vampire craze’, I wanted to read a story about actual vampires. Creatures of the night, teaming with both lust and ferocity; frightening yet mesmerizing but still very very scary. The vampirism in this story felt more like an accessory. Their fangs and need for blood are as intregral to the story as what choice of earrings they wear. They are truly Mean Girls with fangs rather than actual dark creatures of the night. The result is a vampire so utterly boring that something else needed to be introduced to make up for their lack of anything vampire-y. So, the story focuses more heavily on the idea of elemental magic; earth, wind, fire, water and eventually spirit. Every Moroi specializes in an element except for Lissa who, for the large part of the story, doesn’t realize that she specializes in Spirit magic, giving her the ability to heal…

Sound like vampire stuff yet? No? Well too bad.

As an avid reader, I’m not used to actively being engrossed in and still disliking a book all at the same time. Little nuggets of promise, such as the eternal bond shared between two female friends as well as the class difference never hindering their friendship made me curious to read more. All too often stories where there is a class difference between two friends plays too heavily on contrived misunderstanding and “know your place” drama that is destructive and unnecessary. Between Rose and Lissa, this is never an issue.vampire_academy-06 Rose is a devoted friend and ready to give her life to protect her friend. The same is true of Lissa who compromises herself time and again to protect Rose from the scorn of others. And yet, there is so much cattiness, so much stopping the momentum to comment on how “hot” a guy is, so much slut shaming and teenage nonsense, it distracts from the world this novel attempts to create.

By the time I had reached the penultimate scene of the novel, where Lissa has been rescued from a kidnapping attempt by her “uncle” Victor and she, her love interest Christian, and Rose are being chased by a pack of angry Psyhounds; I had already mentally checked out. I assumed by now, that all the training Rose had done would have no effect and she would have to be saved by Dimitri. The novel did not disappoint and the novel ends with a whimper. They are saved, Lissa saves Christian from death and Victor tries once more to escape imprisonment. His daughter turns into a Strigoi and breaks him out, knocking Rose out of the way like a fly in her path only to be killed by Dimitri. Victor is captured once again, Lissa starts dating Christian and taking anti-depressants to deal with the toll her magic puts on her mind, and slowly people begin to accept Lissa for the new amazing magic user and Princess she is. I was reading it, yes ,but I was completely disinterested. Although the film adaptation seems to have made an attempt to address some of these issues, I found myself checking the time as I watched the movie as well; wholly disinterested and ready for it to end.

Rose Hathaway is an unbelievably annoying character in the novels. What some girls may be able to get behind, as a sassy, flirtatious, party girl thrust with the responsibilities of a guardian – I take away as a bratty, entitled teen engrossed fully in herself and her desires and that of her best friend whom she happens to share a large part of her emotions with. She cannot handle Lissa being in emotional turmoil because it affects her, physically. She is rash, a personality trait that is often seen as charming but also blind to how her actions affect those around her and she is unapologetic in this regard. The fact that she is so unapologetic about it yet expects those around her to aid her anyway makes her hard to like. This may be a character trait that is resolved in later books but in Vampire Academy it is a major issue. This may be why the movie goes out of its way to make Rose more likeable. Her sarcastic humor hits more than it misses and she appears to actually care about people other than herself, Lissa and Dimitri. She’s also far more capable than her book counterpart. By the end of the film, Rose actively assists the other guardians in Lissa’s rescue and helps Dimitri kill a Strigoi. The visible changes in Rose’s character note a shift from the author’s perspective of a likeable heroin and the director’s. In fact, it seemed like the film, while being incredibly faithful to it’s source material also wanted to distance itself from it.

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I got the distinct impression that this film hated it’s own source material as well as the fact that it was made. I say this because every scene felt rushed, from the dialogue to the editing. The actors ramble out their dialogue so quickly there is no time for it’s audience to settle in and comprehend what they were saying or doing before they were on to the next thing. This movie is like the worst roller coaster ride EVER. They spout out exposition so fast it figuratively gives me whiplash. A ride that shakes you to holy hell but doesn’t go anywhere.

As many scathing Twilight references as this movie makes poking fun at the “sparkly vampire” fandom, Vampire Academy suffers from the same ailments and goes a step beyond in making their vampires nonthreatening and their magic bland. And now that it’s over, I think I’ll cheat and sneak a drink while decompressing by reading Harry Potter. For some reason, I’m in the mood for a young adult series that doesn’t make me want to gag.

 

 

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