The director of Mean Girls teams up with the writer of Heathers to create a film adaptation of the New York Times Bestselling series Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. For everyone thinking, “oh, this is another version of Twilight,” I can assure you, this series is nothing like its predecessor. Mead crafted a kickass world in her series of books and this world transfers to screen with absolute perfection. Fans of the book series have been overjoyed with this interpretation of the story.
Welcome to the world of Vampire Academy, where the student body at St. Vladimir’s Academy are like no other. In this world, there are the good and the bad vampires. The Moroi, co-exist peacefully among humans and only take blood from willing donors. This special breed of vampires also possesses the ability to control one of the four known elements: water, earth, air, or fire. The protectors of the Moroi are the Dhampirs, who are half-human and half-vampire. Dhampirs are trained to be guardians to protect the Moroi royalty and are taught clever moves to make epic Strigoi kills. What the heck is a Strigoi? They are the big, bad guys that both the Moroi and Dhampirs’ fear. Strigoi are more in rhythm with the classic version of a vampire. The red-eyed, blood crazed monster, without any of the sex appeal that was included in Dracula. The exception, these vampires hunt other vampires instead of solely just humans. Strigoi drink to kill and strive to cause corruption and chaos in the Moroi world.
Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir-in-training who protects her best friend, Vasilisa Dragomir (Lucy Fry). Lissa is the last member of the Royal Dragomir family, which makes her pretty special, and a huge target for enemies. It is up to Rose to protect Lissa from those who wish to harm her and use the princess and her growing powers for their own means. In addition to being an ultra-secret school for Vampires, St. Vlad’s is also a high school and with that brings the usual high school drama, so sometimes, Strigoi aren’t the only enemies the Moroi and Dhampirs have to contend with.
Following true to the books, Rose serves as the narrator to the story as the action and adventures center around her. This sarcastic and hilarious character has to chime her two-cents into every conversation. The film begins with Rose and Lissa being escorted back to the Academy after a prolonged period of hiding out, mostly undetected in a big city. Rose is less than pleased to be returning to the Academy. Her displeasure leads to fantastic dialogue, and many memorable one-liners. Back at the Academy she has to catch up on her guardian training and is paired with Russian badass, Dimitri Belikov (Danila Kozlovsky). You guessed it; this is where the angsty, lusty, teen targeted emotions come. Rose and Dimitri have wicked chemistry in training as well as outside of the classroom. The movie-version of this “forbidden love” story is low on the cheesiness factors that claim most teen centered movies. Its appeal translates to viewers of all ages, not just love struck teenagers.
Overall, this film is not what one would expect from a motion picture inspired by a YA book series. It seems that Twilight has metaphorically killed the Vampire stars, Vampire Academy has resurrected the Vampire. A refreshing take on a teenage love story centered around the world of vampires.
The film is filled with mayhem, lust, adventure, and a healthy dose of violence interjected by the comedic snarkiness of Rose. The casting director did a phenomenal job of bringing these characters to life. This is trickiest part of movies inspired by books: getting the characters just right. Each character owned their role and couldn’t have been better cast. I particularly liked seeing new faces on the screen, further allowing the viewer to identify the actor with the character. The costume design was absolutely brilliant, again creating a bigger target audience than just teens. To really enjoy a movie, you need to feel a cathartic connection, and Vampire Academy delivers.
– Lisa Lunney