It’s no wonder Vampire Academy is oozing with expository dialogue; there’s a lot going on in this vampire battle-filled world:
- The Strigoi: They need Moroi blood in order to maintain their superstrength
- The Moroi: Are determined to preserve their morality and never turn into Strigoi
- The Dhampirs: Protect the Moroi -- if there were no Moroi left, their race would die out (a Dhampir can only be born to a Dhampir and a Moroi)
- St. Vladimir's Academy: The boarding school in Montana where Moroi and their guardian novices are trained in combat and culture
Throw in that Dhampirs are stronger, faster and more agile than the Moroi, who can't even use weapons, and you wind up with a LOT of folks needing something from someone else.
If you’ve seen just one piece of promotional material for Vampire Academy, it’s clear Vampire Academy is like Heathers meets Mean Girls meets vampires, and that makes a lot of sense considering the guys behind it are the Waters brothers: Mean Girls director Mark and Heathers scribe Daniel.
Despite its success, The Twilight Saga left supernatural YA book-to-film adaptations one heck of a stigma to overcome. The Hunger Games got the audience to believe and care, but last year's Beautiful Creatures, The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones all took themselves way too seriously—and bombed.
Vampire Academy is more along the lines of last year’s Warm Bodies, where the characters are aware their situation is outrageous. Cue the nonstop zingers and soundtrack that has Scot-pop band Chvrches' version of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and tunes from Katy Perry and Goldfrapp, and you wind up with a hyperreal high school setting that’s easy to enjoy.
Studios adapt young-adult books to film because they already have a following that knows the books inside and out. As we’ve seen with series like Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, they’re highly dedicated to the talent involved, too, so that talent better be just as enthusiastic as those fans.
Since New York Comic-Con, stars Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Sami Gayle, Sarah Hyland, Dominic Sherwood and Cameron Monaghan have been out in full force discussing their passion for the project, tweeting with fans about the release, signing posters and getting the word out in a big way.
Deutch as the Dhampir-in-training Rose makes this movie—yeah, the same girl from Beautiful Creatures. Clearly that role didn’t do her justice, because in Vampire Academy she has a commanding and infectious on-screen presence.
Deutch told Movies.com that one of her chief concerns with Vampire Academy was nailing the tone. There are certain lines of dialogue in this movie that shouldn’t be funny – on paper they likely don’t even read well. Mark Waters’ direction undoubtedly helped, but Deutch’s timing, tone and expressions turn the clunkers memorable. She also holds her own in serious fight sequences and shows genuine emotion.
Offscreen she has a Jennifer Lawrence-like quality. She drops jokes and has an knack for making silly faces, but she’s also talking about the movie like a pro, not just an ingenue getting her big break and first taste of fame.
Vampire Academy is a fun read, but the second book in Mead’s series, Frostbite, is refined and cinematic. Gone are the days of the Moroi/Dhampir/Strigoi basics. The battle rages on and it’s time that the Moroi and Dhampirs do something about it. It just so happens that that something is taking refuge at a posh ski resort – guardians, novices, young Moroi, royals and all.
Frostbite could still fit the tone the Waters brothers established in this first film, especially considering the trip away from the Academy has a spring break-like appeal, but Frostbite is far darker than Vampire Academy, particularly towards the end. The Moroi and Dhampirs we met are growing up and taking on more responsibility.
Frostbite deserves a big-screen adaptation, so hopefully Vampire Academy’s box office performance will inspire the Weinstein Company to give book number two a go.