Director: Mark Waters
Written By: Daniel Waters (screenplay), Richelle Mead (based on the novel by)
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky
Released: February 7, 2014
Produced By: Angry Films, Kintop Pictures, Preger Entertainment
**There will be spoilers from the movie, but only for those who haven't read the book and when discussing what is different from book to movie.**
Does anyone else hate that movie poster? The hot pink and neon green just aren't doing it for me. Plus the whole "they suck at school" slogan has a way of making Vampire Academy seem very "teeny-bopper" to me. I think the director was aiming his target audience at the same crowd that enjoyed the Mean Girls movie that he also directed with some of the pre-release choices. Personally, I don't think this was the right approach to this franchise, but I guess we'll see how it plays out over time. Also, while I'm discussing pre-release stuff, the initial teaser trailer I think was a letdown. It's hard to say what was "wrong" with it exactly, but when you compare it to the teaser trailer for Divergent, it's easy to see that Divergent's trailer was a lot more enticing. It also seemed like the trailers for Vampire Academy that came on TV before the release had several different variations aimed at appealing to a variety of audiences. Those trailers looked a lot better than the teaser, and I almost wish they had waited until they had a finished trailer and skipped the teaser altogether.
As always whenever a movie is made based off a book I expect differences. Sometimes they need to cut a character to save money so they merge that character with one they're going to keep. Sometimes they cut scenes and merge those scenes with other scenes to save time. Sometimes they cut scenes and characters altogether. I realize that most of the decisions made in changing a book to movie have a reason. Things are different in a visual medium than in written word. Scenes need to be visually appealing, they need to save time, cut money costs where necessary, and appeal to an audience beyond fans of the books. So I know that the differences made from book to movie meet these needs, and I expect them to be there. But as Vampire Academy is my reigning favorite YA book series, it's hard for me not to be a purist about this movie and my hopes for it. Let me go out on a limb and say that book purists everywhere are overall not going to enjoy this movie. It's hard for me to fathom that Richelle Mead is happy with how much was changed, but she did in fact do her own movie review of it where she says that she loved the movie. So you can read her thoughts for yourself. But here are mine.
Let's start with the good.
The best thing about this movie was Zoey Deutch. She does a great job playing Rose Hathaway. Did she deviate from my own picture of Rose at times? Yeah, sure. But for the most part, Zoey Deutch hit Rose right on the money. She was snarky, sarcastic, funny, hard core, and protective of and loyal to Lissa. She was great in the fight scenes. And I just loved her. Great choice in casting there. My husband said, "She's Ellen Page 2.0." What a compliment coming from him because Ellen Page is one of his favorite actresses.
I thought Dominic Sherwood did a pretty spot on job with Christian, and I couldn't have asked for much more from him. Also, Cameron Monaghan's performance as Mason was right up there as well. Oh Mason. *sad sigh* As well as Sarah Hyland playing Natalie. I initially wasn't thrilled with how much screen time Natalie gets, but after having some time to think about it, I think it makes sense visually for continuity.
The not so good, but not quite bad either.
Danila Kozlovsky. Truthfully, I was extremely concerned about his performance of Dimitri. Dimitri is probably one of my all-time favorite book boyfriend, and so this performance was crucial for me. There were moments when I loved Danila in this role and thought he was doing a great job playing Dimitri. There were also moments when I just wasn't impressed and needed more from him. Specifically in the "couch scene". To be honest, I'm not sure that was Danila so much as a directing/screenplay decision, but wherever the decision came from, this scene was lacking the heat that I wanted.
Those who've read the books know that this is one of the key scenes in the book. Rose and Jessie are making out on the couch and Dimitri comes tearing through like a Strigoi's in the room, yanking Jessie off Rose and slamming him up against a wall. He tells Jessie to leave, and then he and Rose proceed to have their first real moment of importance. I mean they've had small moments before, but this one is big. Rose flippantly asks Dimitri if he sees something he likes (which was a huge mistake IMO to leave that line out of the movie). Dimitri takes the opportunity to show his disappointment in her behavior, and Rose realizes for the first time how much she truly cares about his opinion of her, and how she wants to be worthy. She wants to be worthy of being Lissa's guardian, and she wants to be worthy of Dimitri's good opinion of her. She doesn't want him to think of her like a child. It's a sexually charged moment, but it's also deeply charged emotionally. In the movie, this scene is merged with another scene. That wouldn't have bothered me except for the fact that filming the two scenes they chose to do together cuts the intensity of that scene in half. And then when Rose and Dimitri finally have their moment in the film version, there is more affection in the scene than I think comes off in the book. Rose and Dimitri hadn't quite yet developed "affection" in the book by that point. Sexual tension? Sure. Affection? Not quite.
Also, I know Dimitri has long hair in the books, but long hair just doesn't do it for me. In the movie, I didn't mind the scenes when Danila's hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail, but when it was down...I don't know...just not my thing. Danila Kozlovsky does have a great smile though.
Because a book is to an extent capable of containing however many pages necessary to tell the story but movies are limited to a range of acceptable lengths usually around the 2 hour mark, some scenes get cut. But even the ones that don't get cut often feel rushed. That's a bit how I felt in several places. I put this in the not so good, but not quite bad category because it's not really something that can be helped. Yet, I felt it should be noted.
While Richelle Mead's post comes off as saying that she was impressed with how true to the book the movie is...what she actually said was that she was surprised that they didn't cut more and that every major scene in the book that is a fan favorite was at least given a nod to...these two things aren't one in the same. Yes, they did give a nod to every scene that is a fan favorite. But they also changed every single one of those scenes in one form or other. I know they had reason to. But that, from a huge fan of the books, doesn't always sit well.
The note passing scene is one of the funniest scenes in the book. The director gave a nod to it, sure, but instead of Rose and Lissa discussing the intimate details of her makeout session with Jessie that was interrupted by Dimitri, the filmmakers decided to change/merge this into another one of Mia's bullying moments. So they gave a nod to the scene, but they also completely changed the feel of it. And this is just one example. This type of change happened in almost every noteworthy scene.
As a side note, I understand that MOST of the changes from book to movie have purpose, but sometimes there are changes that just don't seem like they have a reason at all. Like how Ralph's name was changed to Ray. Why? And Mr. Meisner. I can't say I'm 100% on that, but I don't think that was the teacher's name either. What is the purpose of altering character names? I'm truly curious here. Anyone have any ideas? And what about "Mia's Friend Bruno" as imbd labels him. I'm pretty sure I know why he was added to the movie...but still...such an addition wasn't necessary.
I was disappointed that the filmmakers chose to change Lissa's cutting to being a byproduct of her magic. I mean I realize the cutting is in fact a byproduct of her use of magic, but they almost made it appear as if the magic does the cutting for Lissa on it's own, and not that it was something she was doing to herself because of the darkness that using her magic brings upon her.
Richelle Mead also says in her review that sometimes adaptations cater too much to fans of only the books or cater too much to new viewers who have never read the books. She thinks the changes made were smart decisions in order to reach the right balance. Maybe it's unfair of me to offer my opinion on this because I can't exactly unread the book and therefore experience the movie as someone in the dark on the storyline, but it felt to me like there wasn't enough fan service to the readers. I did force my husband to listen to the audiobook version of Vampire Academy so he knew the storyline overall (that was several years ago though), but he's not made it past book 1. He, however, said he enjoyed this movie much more than the City of Bones movie.
I think a lot of non-reading viewers have to come to expect a level of cheesiness in movies based off of books. I blame this on Twiligt--specifically the first movie of that series. But there were definitely moments in Vampire Academy that even I could admit were beyond cheesy.
And my last big complaint, like City of Bones where a major plotline of the overall series was ruined in the first movie, Vampire Academy had a similar plotline ruined. Maybe the moviemakers aren't expecting book 6, Last Sacrifice, to ever make it to film, but if it is, they've totally ruined one of the biggest plot points of that book. So thanks for that.
I'm probably forgetting some moments that I wanted to touch on, but for the sake of time I'm wrapping it up here.
Vampire Academy had moments the I loved and moments that I really disliked. Zoey Deutch is again the best part of this movie. The other actors do a good job backing her up and stepping in the roles created by Richelle Mead in the book, but I wasn't thrilled with some executive decisions on changes. Again, I often understand the "why" behind the changes, but that doesn't make me like the changes they made when it alters the feel of a particular scene.
I'm truly torn because I wanted to love the movie, I was nervous after seeing the trailers, but I left the theater feeling torn and slightly let down. Yet, I want them to continue making the other books into movies. The making of the remaining books in this series into movies depends solely on how well the movie does. Considering the fact that my local theater was only offering two showing times (2:00 pm and 7:30 pm) I don't think they expected a huge turn out. And for opening night, our theater was not packed at all. But I also hope that if the remaining movies are made, the moviemakers will cater a bit more to the fans of the books. I realize they need to EXPAND the audience to non-readers, but they need to focus on not losing the readers in the process.
I'm having a hard time rating the movie from 1 to 5, but I think I'll land at 3 Stars even. I didn't hate it, but I didn't leave excited about it either. Have you seen Vampire Academy? What did you think? Let me know!
In case you're curious, here's my review of Vampire Academy the book.