Another year, another young adult adaptation, and yet another featuring supernatural forces. While this may seem the statement of an exasperated reviewer, the truth is, the exasperation comes for the expectations I hold for many of these films.
This is no different with the new “Vampire Academy,” now in theatres. Released pre- “Twilight” craze, the main character even makes a comment regarding the sparkly vampires, and how the vamps of VA do no such thing.
The wilds of Montana host St. Vladimir’s Academy, where the Moroi and dhampirs are educated. The Moroi are mortal and alive, as opposed to the living dead Strigoi. Dhampirs are the offspring of the Moroi and another dhampir, and are trained to be guardians for the Moroi. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The film follows Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), a dhampir novice, and Vasilisa Dragmoir (Lucy Fry), as they are hauled back to St. Vlad’s after a year on the run, by guardian Dimitri Belikov (Danila Kozlovsky). They left the school after a threat to Lissa and her particular set of abilities, which stand apart from the Moroi’s usual elemental powers. As one can imagine, the threat only continues to manifest within the walls of the academy, both juvenile in nature, and truly dangerous as well.
What stands this vampire film apart from others is that, while immersing the audience in the mythology of this world, it never quite takes itself seriously. The continual snark coming out of Rose Hathaway lends itself to a stark contrast between the angsty teen dramas normally seen from these adaptations. The name of the movie is even invoked when jokingly referring to the academy in film, to the chagrin of multiple characters.
“Vampire Academy” was written by Daniel Waters (Heathers) and directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls). Mark Waters has re-entered the high school drama genre, as the two girls, portrayed reliably by Deutch and Fry, who has the task of being compelling and vulnerable at the same time, navigate a heightened version of “normal high school drama.”
Alongside the humorous element, the action and mystery blend well into a mix of tones. It may not seem so, with the rapid-fire pace of the films 104 minute run time. The quick pace may leave some in the dust, but with Rose, our trusty narrator, the audience is filled in and all the strings tie together in the end for everyone.
I went into this movie with higher expectations, as a fan of the book series. While a movie not for all audience, it works well for the audience it was made for, fans of the book and youth 13 and over. And that is the defining factor here.
“Vampire Academy” is not for all ages. While not bloody, it is oft times violent, has its fair share of language and manages to translate a scene from the book, involving a lust charm, rather well, without going too far or not far enough considering the material and the attraction that plays out between Rose and her mentor Dimitri Belikov.
I’m placing “Vampire Academy” in a mid-B range. Some of the character developments suffer for the sake of the quick pace of the film, and the mythology is barely glossed over considering its depth. It works in bringing the material to a semblance of life on the big screen, and while perhaps not perfect, we are at least spared the horrors of a Bella Swan repeat.
“Vampire Academy” is rated PG-13 for language, sexual content, violence and some bloody images.