***This movie is now in theaters! Go see it! It’s excellent!***
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that Richelle Mead is my favorite author. She writes both YA and adult urban fantasy, most notably the Vampire Academy series and the Succubus Blues/Georgina Kincaid series. She crafts the perfect blend of fantastical plot, excellent characters, humor, and romance in all of her novels. Mead’s female leads are always strong, three-dimensional women. She also has a degree in comparative religion, so you can tell she did her homework in every novel she’s written.
But let’s talk about Vampire Academy, as it’s just been made into a movie by the guys who did Heathers and Mean Girls and came out on Friday!
Vampire Academy is a 6-book series that centers around Rose Hathaway, a half-human, half-vampire (called a dhampir) and her best friend, Princess Lissa Dragomir. In this world there are two types of vampires: the Moroi (the “good” vampires with souls, who only drink blood to survive, use magic, and are not immortal) and the Strigoi (the “bad” vampires without souls, who drink to kill, can’t use magic, and are immortal). Strigoi like to eat Moroi, so Dhampirs, like Rose, are trained to be guardians for the Moroi, as using Moroi magic for defense is frowned upon by the upper classes. Moroi have one of 5 elemental magics – earth, water, fire, air, and one that I won’t mention because they don’t know about it until about halfway through the first book – so go see the movie if you want to find out what it is! Strigoi lack this magic. In the first book, Rose and Lissa have run away from their school – St. Vladimir’s Academy – because they have reason to believe that Lissa is in danger. The story begins with their recapture, and they must pick up in school where they left off. It soon becomes clear that Lissa is still not safe.
Vampire Academy came out around the same time the Twilight books did, but it’s about a million times better because the characters actually have personalities and act like real people. Plus, Rose Hathaway is a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, the media largely ignored this superior work (I’m not biased AT ALL), until now. I’m sure some of you think popular culture is a bit saturated with vampires at the moment, which is true. But isn’t it always? Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy… These franchises have spanned the last couple decades, and Dracula always seems to come back in one form or another. Why? People love vampires. There are multitudes of books written about this phenomenon.
So after I read Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, I found myself reading a book about the history of vampire lore, and I discovered that the names she uses for the two types of vampires in her world (Moroi and Strigoi) are real. Not real in the sense that vampires exist, but this particular myth really did originate in Russia. See? She does her homework.
I could go on and on about this, but I want to talk about the Vampire Academy Movie. First, I’d like to point out that Richelle Mead loved the movie. Many people have expressed skepticism that she was essentially paid to say she liked it, but I’ve read a lot of her blog posts now, and I think she likes to be honest with her fans. She loved this movie, and so did I!
**EDIT: My review is more for an audience that has read the books. If you haven’t read the books, I suggest you check out this review instead.**
I used to be extremely skeptical about my favorite books being turned into movies. Many readers have this problem. But one thing I’ve come to understand over the last couple years is that movies and books are different mediums, so of course they can’t be exactly the same. Once you accept this, watching movies based on books you loved will be much more enjoyable. That said, it’s been several years since I read the Vampire Academy series, so I have to say that the storyline was coherent enough in the movie that I could follow it with extremely vague memories about what happened.
My favorite part of the movie was the cast, especially Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway. Everyone did a really good job, and I was really happy to see that Dimitri is played by a real Russian actor. But Zoey takes the cake for best performance. The entire time I was captivated by how perfectly she conveyed Rose’s sarcasm as well as how much she cares for her best friend Lissa. Zoey Deutch IS Rose Hathaway.
The weakest link may have been headmistress Kirova, and that may just be because I remember her differently from how I saw her in the movie. First off, I thought Kirova was a dhampir, but in the movie she’s a Moroi. I also got the impression that she just really wanted to follow the rules of her institution, I didn’t think she was really that vindictive towards Rose. So, while she didn’t match the memory I had of her, the character in the movie was still really fun. Her costumes were quite elaborate (I mean really, check out those nails!).
While we’re on the subject of characters – there was great chemistry between all the major players: Dimitri, Rose, Lissa, Christian, and Mason. The romance between Dimitri and Rose comes to a slow boil, and it’s not the focus of the story, which was great (it’s not the focus of the book either). Plus, the last scene between the two of them was the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen. And I hate sappy romance. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I’ll just say that Rose is an amazing character. I loved Christian Ozera in the books as well, and I was pleased to see that I was not disappointed. I wanted to give him a high five after this particular scene:
Lissa was just as I remembered her from the books – pretty timid, until she hatches her plan for school domination, and the crazy starts to happen. She and Rose compliment each other as characters, and I was pleased to see that translate over from the books. And Mason was, of course, his adorably sweet self. I have so many feels about Mason, but I won’t drop and spoilers for anyone.
Many people expressed fear that this movie was written as a comedy, based on the trailers. I’d like to reassure everyone who’s read the books (and I suppose those of you who haven’t and have no idea what this movie is) that it’s not a comedy, but like all of Richelle Mead’s books, it has a strong comedic element. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Richelle Mead writes with the perfect blend of drama, humor, romance, and excellent characters. We are lucky that the screenwriters were able to translate that into film so brilliantly.
Now that I’ve talked about all the things I loved in this movie, I can say a few words about its flaws. The pacing seems a bit fast, but I suppose you’d always get that. They sort of skimmed over Rose’s arrangement with Dimitri for extra training lessons – she’s just suddenly having one with him. I think the level of weirdness associated with a Moroi who hasn’t claimed a magic type yet was played down. In the book it seemed like a really big deal, but in the movie they almost instantly realize that Ms. Karp and St. Vladimir had the same problem – and I’m certain this is all to do with pacing. The movie clocks in at 1 hour, 45 minutes, which says to me they had a little more time to slow things down. I can’t think of much more than that, and I’d probably have to go see it again with a critical eye. At first glance, I really enjoyed this movie, and I felt it stayed true to the book as much as a movie can.
So, without further ado, I give you the trailer! But you must ignore the 2/14 release date. They moved it up to 2/7, so it is out in theaters RIGHT NOW. I am praying to all the deities in Richelle Mead’s Age of X series to help this movie do well in its first weekend so we can have the green light to make the sequel! I have to see Adrian Ivashkov on the big screen. I really do.