Vampire Academy Review – fun and light-hearted guilty pleasure

3.5/5

Sometimes you want some trash to watch, that can be distracting and cheer you up. Vampire Academy was the perfect answer to this.

Based on the novels by Richelle Mead, Vampire Academy follows the protagonist Rose Hathaway. Rose is half human, half vampire breed known as Dhampir, who are guardians of the Moroi. The Moroi are mortal vampires, that possess magic and live secretly in the world. Rose is training to earn the title of Guardian, so she can protect her vampire, from the bloodthirsty and immortal vampires known as the Strigoi. Strigoi are a violent and immortal breed that have turned from Moroi after fully draining their victims. Vampire Academy starts off with Rose and her vampire, Lissa on the run from their academy for the last two years, but they are soon dragged back. Having to deal with the dangerous hierarchy that is filled with lies, rumours and conspiracies, it soon becomes clear that Lissa is in danger.

Now this was a complete and utter failure at the box office. There were plans for a sequel to probably follow the trajectory of the books, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough fan support to make it viable. But considering that Twilight became a successful franchise, I’m not sure where most people’s brains are at; as I found Vampire Academy a lot more enjoyable. However, I feel like a lot of people were fatigued by the many teen supernatural movies that were dominating the cinemas in recent years before Vampire Academy was released. Nevertheless, I found this film quite charming and I really enjoyed the portrayal of Rose by Zoey Deutch. You may recognize her from her airhead character Madison in Zombieland: Double Tap.

Unfortunately, it is let down by the rest of the cast. The actors who play Lissa and Dimitri (Rose’s trainer), lack any passion or creativity, and their performances fall flat. It felt like Deutch was pretty much propping up the rest of the cast. Rose is a character you can get behind, unlike the main protagonists of Twilight, which it has been unfavourably compared to. Rose is no damsel in distress, waiting for someone to save her or fall in love with her. She takes action even if it is hasty at times. Deutch is definitely someone I can see as a rising star, so hopefully she gets more opportunities to shine, in the future.

I just felt less invested in the rest of the characters, as their character development felt neglected, and they didn’t have as sharp dialogue as Rose. But Lissa was also meant to be the star of Vampire Academy, but they never give us any reasons to care about her or her motivations. And the chemistry between the two, was wanting. As a story about a bond between two teenage girls, we needed a bit of bonding to happen for it to really spark.

Now Vampire Academy has a bit of magic, school rivalry and royalty thrown in the mix, which unfortunately makes the plot a bit jumbled. Having never read the book, I’m not sure if the film is true to the original story, but if it isn’t this may have accounted for the poor reception it received. It is almost like it is not sure where it wants to head. We have the plot of the Strigoi, which I feel they should have utilized a bit more. And there is the issue of the dead coming back to life, which only seems to concern Rose for the most part. Plus there is royalty similar to Underworld movies, which is kinda glossed over but could have been an interesting factor. They don’t really explain why the royalty is important and what it is all about, so it just feels like decoration rather than important plot point. What they eventually land on, unfortunately, had not had enough build-up to make it feel as though the stakes are high.

I wasn’t expecting a deep storyline, but a bit more cohesion throughout would have made this a tighter film. Regardless I still immensely enjoyed Vampire Academy as the light-hearted escapism that it was. What I loved about this film is the dialogue. At many points, I found myself laughing at the lines. This is probably due to the self-aware sarcasm that is peppered throughout the film. There are references that younger and older audiences can enjoy throughout as well. I would expect nothing less from Daniel Waters, who as screenwriter is known for his work on Demolition Man and Hudson Hawk, two of my favourite movies.

Vampire Academy is a fun and light-hearted supernatural/vampire movie with sharp dialogue and a plot, though jumbled, that is still entertaining. Having many of the teen drama tropes, it does not sway far from its source, giving you a familiar base to enjoy. But, with a kick-ass main character and tongue-in-cheek humour, you can’t go wrong with this undoubtedly “guilty pleasure” film.

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