REVIEW: “Vampire Academy”

Includes spoilers.

As a fan of Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy” series I was wary about the movie coming out. I’ve been burned before when it comes to my favorite books being turned into big screen movies. It was another vampire movie. The characters I loved were complex and hard to put into a two-dimensional medium like film. It was a difficult premise to follow, as it was not your typical vampire tale with two different races of vampires, one good, Moroi, and one bad, Strigoi. But, I watched as the cast list was announced and pictures were released from set, and I was mildly placated. Then Mead did an interview where she praised the writer, Daniel Waters who wrote “Heathers”, and the director, Mark Waters of “Mean Girls” fame. I was prepared to hate it, but I loved it, and here’s why.

At first glance the story behind this series is quite juvenile, two 17-year-old girls with a supernatural bond and a hot older teacher, but this story is more complicated than it appears on the surface. The main character is Rose Hathaway. She is part of a race of half-human, half-vampire beings called Dhampirs, bred to protect and serve their vampire counterparts. She and her best friend, a royal Moroi named Lissa, are on the run from some strange supernatural beings chasing them. They are caught and taken back the St. Vladimir’s school where Moroi and Dhampirs live and are protected from an evil the vampires called Strigoi.

So that’s the background but what was best about the books and the movie was the attitude. Rose is training to protect her friend and that gives her some of the best lines. She is a sassy spitfire that could literally knock you out. Zoey Deutch nailed it; she was Rose in every way. I love her relationship with her best friend, similar to that one friend we all have. The one where you can practically read each other’s mind, and you’d do anything for each other. That is Rose and Lissa’s relationship. As much as I admire Rose for her ability to distill the tension in a room with a joke, I’ve never liked Lissa much, and I felt the same way about Lucy Fry. She was beautiful and did Lissa right, but I was thrown off by her  Australian accent, when the Moroi are descended from Eastern Europe.

The other relationship I love is the one between Rose and her tutor, Dimitri, who is helping her catch up on two years of missed training. The relationship is one of respect and mutual understanding. Anyone who is a fan of the books is looking to one scene with Rose and Dimitri, and let me tell you…it could’ve been longer. The scene in the books with the lust charm seemed to fly by, so here’s to hoping there will be some deleted scenes on the DVD. In the books, Dimitri is a Russian god when it comes to fighting with long brown hair and a cowboy duster, and when I saw him on screen I was blown away. The best decision they could have made was to cast a Russian as Dimitri and they did. During the fight scenes he was god-like. The fight sequences in the movie were incredible, they didn’t make the men carry the weight, and I loved watching Rose as she beat up guys twice her height and weight.

To answer the question on everyone’s mind, yes there are some scenes from the book that aren’t in the movie, and there are some scenes out of order. But as a new medium they help make sense for the flow of the plot and help clarify some blurred moments. There is one scene in particular with Rose and Dimitri in the car which they must be planning to put in a later movie, but other than that I didn’t miss any particular scenes or moments.

Overall, I thought the movie was an accurate translation from the books. The beginning of the movie did a great job of explaining the backstory you need to know to understand and care about these characters. I know it’s not for everyone and I imagine some people are spent on vampires and tired of hearing about them, but this movie is full of attitude and heart. So move beyond the young adult book adaptation and vampires and check it out, you don’t have to read the books to enjoy the movie, but after you see the movie you’ll probably want to read all the books immediately.

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