Vampire Academy (2014)
Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky
Plot: Teenager Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir — a human/vampire hybrid. Her best friend is Lissa Dragomir, a princess of the Moroi — mortal, peaceful vampires. Both teens attend St. Vladamir’s Academy, a secret haven for those like them. Rose trains with a handsome mentor to guarantee her place as Lissa’s guardian — although she may have to sacrifice everything to protect Lissa from enemies both within St. Vladamir’s walls and outside them.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, the moment you hear one of your favourite books is going to become a movie. You get that, “Oh yea, I get to re-live it for the first time!” thing all over again. For all major book-worms, like myself, this lasts approximately five minutes before the first bit of doubt starts to creep in and your brain starts exploding with questions like: Will it be good? Will they cast the right actors? What if they make her BLONDE?! I can imagine this is what happened to a great number of us when it was revealed that Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy was announced as heading to the big screen.
On the whole I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the film and there were no massive plot changes between the book and the film like there are in other adaptions (I’m looking at you ‘My Sister’s Keeper’!). One issue I did have, though, was how for the first half of the film the scenes didn’t quite… fit together. Somehow, eliminating Rose’s narration seems to give the film a jumpy feel to it, kind of like the director didn’t quite know how to end the scenes so just threw them together until the major plotline kicked in at the end. As a result I was kind of disheartened. It made everything else about the plot line, the parts that continue on through the other six books, seem almost inconsequential.
With regards to the casting, I think that Zoey Deutch was the perfect choice for Rose – she’s almost exactly how I imagined her to be, plus, she seems to have that sassy Ellen Page thing going on, and; who doesn’t love Ellen Page? I’ve heard some people complain that Zoey Deutch was too skinny to play the role of the voluptuous Dhampir. Personally, I think this is ridiculous and I think that it’s worth noting that Rose is considered curvy particularly in comparison to the slim figured Moroi. Plus, she has to be in reasonable shape and bad-ass to fight (and win) against all those crazy Strigoi (the bad vampires) that are running around out there. She’s going to be curvy but she’s also going to be as toned as hell. You know, kind of like how Zoey Deutch looks…
As for the rest of the casting, there’s nothing I particularly don’t like. Though there are some things that aren’t quite how I imagined, I can’t quite put my finger on what they are. One issue I do have, however, is the fangs. Lucy Fry makes a great Lissa but those fangs make things awkward both in the way her smile sits uncomfortably and how it appears to make talking difficult. These make me glad of one of the few plot changes the movie did make to be honest, and that was that Moroi are supposed to have their fangs out permanently and just learn to get better at hiding them but, oh my, I could not have watched an entire film where half the cast talked like that. It’s hard enough watching the scenes with Headmistress Kirova and her toothy grimace.
One thing that does surprise me in the movie is how the character’s school life is completely diminished. I mean, for a film titled Vampire Academy there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of the academy part. I think this is a shame really because, in the books, you get a real feel for how the main characters are trying to get on with their school life despite all of the drama going on. I mean, the main plot of the entire SERIES is how Rose is training to be Lissa’s guardian which relies on her, you know, graduating from school! More so, Lissa’s inability to specialise in an element is really brought into light in her ‘basics of elemental control’ lessons. But, let’s face it, one major reason the school element is important is because it’s full of cliques, popularity contests and bitchy girls. It’s a massive plot device in that it fuels Rose’s defensive attitude regarding Lissa and is a big part of mean girl Mia acting out her revenge upon the last of the Dragomir’s.
Overall, there really is only one element of the film that I was really disappointed with and that was how the film addressed Lissa and her self-harm. Specialising in Spirit has some really negative effects, particularly on Lissa’s mental health, so much so that at the end of the book she starts taking prescribed anti-depressants. One way this manifests itself is in Lissa’s self-harm. Mead addresses the issue really well in the books, I think, through Lissa’s voice when she talks about it and Rose’s experiences being her friend and helping her through it. It’s a sensitive topic but really adds something to the plot and makes everything so much more real. But then there’s the films interpretation.
The movie has Lissa collapse under the pressure spirit is putting on her and then the cuts materialise on her arm, instead of her doing it to herself. To me, this takes away so much from her character and diminishes the effect that spirit is really having on her in that it’s not just hurting her, but it’s hurting her so much that she is hurting herself. It’s possible that this is done to be able to stick to its 12 (PG-13) age rating and to keep in line with the more comic twist the film tries to take. But, as someone who loves the books and really took a lot from that storyline, I was disappointed with its portrayal of such a serious issue.
Ignoring this one (rather large) faux pa however, the film was funny, clever and action packed with just about everything a teen vampire movie needs; fights, drama and a romance to top it all off. So, maybe it didn’t do as well as some of our other film favourites when it came to the big screen, but for what it was it did a great job. I really enjoy watching it and I’ll watch it again, loving the chance to see one of my favourite books in live action.