Vampire Academy – Film Review
What kind of sick world do we live in where a pseudo-lesbian vampire buddy dramedy by the director of Mean Girls is a sequel-killing flop?
I’m disgusted at all of us.
And it didn’t even deserve it.
TL;DR Irreverent, funny, and thankfully easy to follow, Vampire Academy may be a stake too many in the vampire pop culture boom’s deflating heart, but it’s good enough. And I’d still go with this over the bland, painfully serious Hunger Games wannabes that are the new flavour dujour. 3 out of 5 stars.
Do we really need a new generation of bogans named Shailene? No.
Vampire Academy’s plot is kind of complicated, but kind of not. So there’s 3 types of vampires (Moroi: the benevolent, royal vamps; Dhampir: their faithful servants; and Strigoi: the bad, ugly ones). Rose (Zoey Deutch, improbably throwing off the shackles of Ringer mediocrity to prove some level of talent) is a Dhampir to Lissa, a Moroi, and together they must be best friends, implied lovers, and thwart evil plots that come from within their high school (the titular Vampire Academy). There’s some Mean Girls esque bullshit that has something to do with Lissa’s family’s death (the Alpha Bitch was in love with Lissa’s brother or something. Who cares?), which eventually gives way to a plot masterminded by Gabriel Byrne’s evil Moroi vampire. Which isn’t very surprising, given that he’s the only notable adult actor in this thing, and that’s who the villain roles go to, you know? Subplots include Rose’s attraction to a hot teacher; Lissa being oblivious and a Serena Van Der Woodsen-style obstacle; Sarah Hyland trying desperately to escape Modern Family (good luck); Moroi being magic (this again?); the Alpha Bitch having crap hair; and a rambling memory wipe backstory that tries to make everything come together, but is really just extraneous.
Compulsion being used against other vampires? Madness!
The real shining light for me in this enjoyable mess is Zoey Deutch. It turns out she doesn’t suck. Ringer just sucked. Which, like, I already knew. But now I really know. Ringer really sucked.
I like it when my prejudices are affirmed. That’s all I really want out of life.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Vampire Academy is, apart from the basis and pacing of a good time, a bloated, washed out teen fantasy/romance pretender, following in Twilight’s vast, decaying wake.
Why I hate this movie:
Despite the fact that I came around, the whole concept of 3 different breeds of vampires still seems unnecessarily complicated to me. Everyone knows that vampire fiction’s 3 races are already vampire, werewolf, witch. We don’t need 2 more sub-levels of vampire. Especially when they’re all visually analogous (Strigoi have red eyes. Nothing some sunglasses wouldn’t fix).
The race relations between the breeds could have been something neat to explore, but it doesn’t go there. Strigoi = bad, Moroi = top dogs, Dhampir = slaves. There are a couple of moments where the hierarchy is questioned (Gabriel’s villainy as a Moroi being the most obvious), but the status quo isn’t changed in any way. Rose is even happy to be Lissa’s bodyguard with the expectation that she will die protecting her. This is palmed off as “because we’re BFFs,” but it’s textbook child soldier brainwashing.
Lissa isn’t much better on the equality front. Not that I’d give up having all those perks of “friendship” at my beck and call, either.
Rose should really leave her hot-for-teacher bullshit back in Rosewood, where it belongs. Worse, she and Russian Guy end up as a will-they-or-won’t-they thing, which I suspect was in anticipation of the sequel. Oh, dear.
Yeah, this thing ain’t getting a sequel. Gee, I’m glad we took this shallow tour of a clearly deeper world that we’ll now never get to see. Cute.
Sarah Hyland is cast well as the nerdy wannabe, but I can’t take her seriously as an unstoppable pummel machine once she makes her transformation into Strigoi Final Boss in the finale (Gabriel was her dad. They’re both evil). I’m not intimidated by Haley Dunphy with red contact lenses.
In addition to her silent endorsement of slavery, Lissa also turns out to be a stupid, obstructive bitch for most of the middle of the movie. She’s obsessed with her high school politics powerplay against Pixie Cut, and has a minor tiff with Rose, who is jealous of Lissa’s man crush or something. So when Rose tries to expose proof of the actual, dangerous plot going on behind the scenes at school, Lissa blocks the shit out of her. Fuck off, Serena.
Lissa’s resurrection magic takes a toll on her own body. So original, it hurts.
Gabriel Byrne is obviously evil from his first scene.
Taking another sin from Breaking Dawn: Part 2, there’s a sequence where a bunch of main characters abruptly die, which turns out to be a dream. I am not amused.
Taking a sin from the first Hunger Games movie, there are some rubbish, CGI monster animals near the end.
All the boys look the same.
Lissa makes a grand speech at the end, imploring everyone at the school to become better people, to rousing applause. From emo-vampire teenagers? Yeah, right.
Oh, and I don’t know if I read it incorrectly, but why does the vampire queen live at some random school in America?
But it’s not all bad:
Zoey Deutch is badass, man. Lissa gets completely pushed out of focus whenever Rose is around. For once, I didn’t prefer the blonde girl. That’s an incredible feat, you know.
While I didn’t expect much to come from a teen-aiming vampire movie in the way of gay discussion, Vampire Academy does what it can to integrate this aspect of Lissa and Rose’s relationship. Lissa feeds on Rose, which is taboo not because it’s gay, but because it’s drinking blood from a fellow vampire. This is exemplified when Pixie Cut goes on the gossipy offensive against Lissa. While she labels her a “bloodwhore” (the blood drinking is pretty intimate), there’s no vilification from anyone on the grounds of it being two girls doing it together; it’s simply socially degrading for a Dhampir to be fed on by a Moroi. That’s nice.
Rose even shows some jealousy towards Lissa’s male love interest. Rose and Lissa do end up on the more heterosexual end of the Kinsey Scale by the end of the movie, but it’s not a stretch to read into a gay interpretation. Again, it was nice.
Olga Kurylenko plays the whip-cracking headmistress of the school, and is a delightful red herring in the shadowy conspiracy. Moreover, she becomes an obliging ally one Rose starts looking into Karp (a disappeared, former teacher). She was fun.
Karp’s subplot turns out to be both intriguing and valuable. She also had Lissa’s Moroi power of resurrection, but ended up turning herself into a Strigoi to escape the threat she was under. Before that, she orchestrated Lissa and Rose’s escape from the academy and used compulsion on Rose to only remember things when the time was right. And to close out the movie, the now-evil Karp is shown in the nearby mountains, poised to attack with a Strigoi army.
The vampire magic is much more upfront and consistent than the vampire magic in Twilight. Christian (Lissa’s male love interest) puts his pyromancy to good use against those CGI wolves in the penultimate battle against Gabriel.
Rose has a 3rd love interest by way of a redheaded guy in her class. He picks up best line of the movie (which is a nice consolation, because Rose ignores the fuck out of him):
Rose: “Surely you have something more interesting to discuss than my ass?”
Red: “Your boobies?”
The academy gets around the blood drinking problem by having a service wherein rabid Twilight fangirls donate themselves to be fed on by the Moroi for a fixed term, then mind wiped and released at the end of it. In reality, things would be much ickier than that, but it’s a fair enough solution to the problem.
Joely Richardson is the queen.
Gabriel and Hyland secretly give Rose a sex pendant that makes her try to bang her teacher.
Rose punches Pixie Cut in the face at the school dance (yes, they still have school dances).
Oh, and although Moroi aren’t fans of going in the sun, it doesn’t kill them. So the movie isn’t Forks-level gloomy.
Don’t hate it ’cause it’s beautiful. Hate it ’cause it’s overpackaged in the same mould as every other teen fantasy/romance drivel. Hey, at least this one’s trying to be funny on purpose. 3 out of 5 stars.