Last week, I moseyed on over to my local theater, dragging my best friend along in the process, as a good friend often does, to see Vampire Academy. A little background information: We’d both been looking forward to this movie for YEARS. However, the verdict is in and if someone were to ask me, “OMGosh! How was it?” I’d have to put on my best Commodus face and go…
To put my feelings into words, Vampire Academy was at times disappointing, painfully hilarious, awkward, and just plain awful. Apparently, school isn’t the only thing they suck at. Also, expect at least one more lame pun in this post.
Right from the beginning as the movie opened with Rose and Lissa on the run, I had a bad feeling. Vampire Academy suffers from what a lot of YA adaptations suffer from: info-dumping. To a certain degree I can understand why this happens. There is a lot of material and world building explanations that must be covered in such a short amount of time—in Vampire Academy’s case, in only 104 minutes—that the characters end up monologuing to each other à la Frieza from Dragon Ball Z (Kakarot!). However, this movie took it a step further and decided it was a brilliant idea to have the names of the three vampire races written out on screen for… reasons.
Yet despite such a rough and tragic start, I tried to remain optimistic. So let me go ahead and get the good out of the way. For the most part, I did end up liking all the actors who were cast, including the leading roles of Rose (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa (Lucy Fry). The two ladies did have pretty good chemistry and their banter felt organic. The action/fight scenes weren’t bad either and I was impressed on a few occasions, though this is mostly because my expectations weren’t set very high.
Vampire Academy’s biggest problem would have to be its attempt to conquer so much. I wasn’t sure what it was trying to actively accomplish. At times it felt very much like a parody of itself with a few jibs directed towards the title of the movie and Twilight fanfiction, which I thought was a nice touch. It was also relatively close to the book, maintaining Rose’s snark, memorable scenes from the novel and a few funny one-liners. Unfortunately, the novelty of the humour began to level off and die as the film wore on.
And the romance between Rose and Dimitri was highly underdeveloped and extremely uncomfortable to watch. By the end, it felt like the movie morphed into this odd version of a chick flick that left me cringing during kissing scenes like a three-year-old and choking on the cheesiness. Somehow, what seemed like a good idea in the novel (Dimitri calling Rose “Roza”) was a very, very bad idea for the film. When two love interests spend a grand total of 2.5 seconds (I’m exaggerating here, but just go with it) together throughout the entire movie, it’s hard to connect with those two characters on that level. I didn’t buy their romance or chemistry at all. Instead, more time was spent on Christian and Lissa’s relationship, which is odd considering Dimitri and Rose’s complicated love life ends up playing a bigger role in the subsequent novels.
One of the reasons why adaptations like The Hunger Games works so well from book to film is its straightforward plot. There aren’t any side plots that take more time to build or explain to the audience. And while there is a romantic element, it still manages to slyly incorporate that without losing the romantic tension. How? A glance, a lingering touch, downcast eyes, etc. In contrast, Vampire Academy has a lot of ground to cover for the main plot, leaving the romantic development on the back burner. There’s the mystery of Lissa’s stalker, Lissa’s power, Lissa’s love life, Rose’s training, Rose’s love life, and let’s not forget high school drama. Oh, and let’s do this all to the tune of Mean Girls humor.
No. It’s way too much.
Which leads to another issue: the pacing. Vampire Academy moves at neck-breaking speed. While I may have been very familiar with the plot (since I’ve read the novel three times), I do think it would be too quick for someone new to this fantasy world. There were a few times where I had to explain to my companion who was who and why they mattered. There were some explanations by way of Rose during scenes where she “jumps” into Lissa’s mind, but these were also the scenes I felt were the most poorly done with the camera flipping back and forth between Rose’s interjections and Lissa’s actual actions. If this were a YA novel, I’d be saying, “Show, don’t tell.”
The ending left me scratching my head, since it showed a scene of Ms. Karp and an army of Strigoi hiding out in a nearby cave. This doesn’t exactly happen until book 3, so I’m not sure where they’re going with that. Still, I’m curious if I’ll even find out what they’re planning next considering the box office sales sucked. Oh, c’mon. You knew that pun was coming.
Overall, if I had to give Vampire Academy a letter grade, I’d give it a D+. It’s like watching a slightly better Twilight, minus the horrid blue tint, where the actors have significantly better wardrobe options. I wouldn’t recommend anyone rushing out to their theaters to see this immediately, as I would very much consider this a Red Box film, however, it does provide some sort of mindless entertainment factor. It did make me laugh, albeit at it and not with it, and if that was its goal, then mission accomplished.
tl;dr version: Cheesy.