So, I finally watched the movie adaptation of ‘Vampire Academy’. And in a year of so many YA books coming to the big screen (The Fault in Our Stars, Maze Runner, The Giver, Mockingjay … the list goes on) the adaptation of Richelle Mead’s hugely popular urban fantasy series will probably be quickly forgotten … which is probably for the best.
Issues for me started with the sickly pink/green movie poster. It proudly proclaimed the movie was; “from the director of Mean Girls, and the writer of Heathers” (no mention of Richelle Mead, oddly enough?) Both are really, really good teen movies … but my hesitation was proven right because the overall tone of the film was one of humour. This is a real shame, because Mead did such a great job of mixing horror, comedy, romance and action in the book series. The movie probably hits two of those four notes – and it’s no wonder, because that’s also true of ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Heathers’. It was like the director and writer couldn’t fathom a multi-dimensional teen movie, when that is the very strength of the book series.
In the first few minutes of ‘Vampire Academy’ Lissa (Lucy Fry) and Rose (Zoey Deutch) feed each other lines to quickly and sloppily catch viewers up on what’s happening; “I’m still adjusting, Rose. It has been less than a year since we ran away from the academy. Two years since the crash. Do you really think the academy is still trying to track us down?” These awkward conversations run throughout the film; you could probably play a pretty decent drinking game for every supremely awkward line – although once you get to “You were fornicating, weren’t you?” it’s time to chug, chug, chug! and then you’re down for the count.
The next major disappointment comes with Dimitri Belikov – who probably has more fan-girls than Edward Cullen and a mighty expectation placed on him for that very reason. And, look, the casting director clearly tried because the actor Danila Kozlovsky is actually Russian – so they’ve ticked the authenticity box (although, I don’t think they ever gave Danila a chance to actually speak in Russian? So, what was the point?) But they had a seriously hard task before them, because nearly every single fan-made trailer cast Ben Barnes in the role. You guys; Danila Kozlovsky is no Ben Barnes, I’m just sayin’. He seemed a little too old (like, creepy old) for Zoey Deutch’s Rose, and he did not rock the male-ponytail at all. The main issue though is that Danila Kozlovsky and Zoey Deutch had none of the chemistry that Rose and Dimitri have in the books – which practically smoulders the page.
While we’re on the topic of casting – Lucy Fry as Lissa Dragomir was another serious miss. I will say this was another problematic casting because (as I’ve mentioned in every ‘Vampire Academy’ book review) I feel like Lissa is a very hard character to like, mostly because I thought she had too much power in her and Rose’s friendship. Lucy Fry is fine, just a little too bland for a character who is already pretty boring in the books. And what was up with her mouth? Did the director make her wear false vampire-teeth the whole time, because her lips looked painfully stung and sometimes it was like she struggled to talk. Not to mention the fact that Lissa and Rose’s being shadow-kissed translated horribly in the movie, when it’s pretty much the only thing that connected them in the book. It didn’t help that the director chose to use a fish-eye lens sporadically to convey when Rose was in Lissa’s head – and then change to the camera as a voyeur looking on. It was just sloppy, and confusing when the fish-eye technique was also used when Lissa was hypnotising people.
The one bright spot in the whole movie is Zoey Deutch. I know when she was cast people grumbled about her not being voluptuous enough to play Rose Hathaway – but, trust me, in a whole movie of pretty awful, she is an absolute marvel. I 100% agree with the Huff Post entertainment reviewer Mike Ryan, who said; ‘This movie would have been better if it was just Zoey Deutch, sitting on a stool, reading the book to the audience. I’m being serious." At one point she throws her arms wide and asks, “Are you not entertained?” and, gosh darnit, I was! She’s fabulous, and I hope she’s in more (better) things.
The movie has a 104-minute run-time. They tried to cram all 332-pages into those 104 minutes, and it just didn’t work. If anything, it highlighted for me how much ‘Vampire Academy’ would make a better TV series than movie – because all the subplots and flashbacks, foreshadowing and Lissa and Rose’s love lives do not work in a single movie. It’s a real shame, because Richelle Mead’s ‘Vampire Academy’ is ripe for adaptation – just not by the director of 'Mean Girls' and writer of 'Heathers', and not necessarily in a movie. Though Zoey Deutch tried damn hard with what she was given, and has a new fan in me.