VAMPIRE ACADEMY ½
2014, PG-13, 104 mins.
2014, PG-13, 104 mins.
Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway / Lucy Fry as Lissa Dragomir / Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri Belikov / Gabriel Byrne as Victor Dashkov / Sarah Hyland as Natalie Dashkov / Olga Kurylenko as Kirova / Joely Richardson as Queen Tatiana
Directed by Mark Waters / Written by Daniel Waters / Based on the novel by Richelle Mead
Okay…here’s one for you:
How could a film
from the director of MEAN GIRLS and the writer of HEATHERS be not only one
of the worst films of 2014, but is also the single worst young
adult themed movie of recent memory?
VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a rare breed of multiple cinematic sinner.
There’s ample talent behind the scenes here (director Mark Waters
made the aforementioned MEAN GIRLS and his brother, Daniel, wrote the
scathingly hilarious HEATHERS way, way back in the 1980’s), but
there’s not a scintilla of their natural talent on display here in
adapting Richelle Mead's 2007 novel of the same name (there’s a total of six
books in the literary series). There
have been multiple attempts on Hollywood’s part to duplicate the
ravenous fan following of the TWILIGHT
series (some have sorta worked, whereas many have – pardon the pun –
sorta sucked). Amazingly,
VAMPIRE ACADEMY is so wrongheaded, so lazily conceived, so insipidly
acted, and so incoherent and disinteresting on a world building level that
it makes Stephanie Meyers’ tales of bloodsuckers and werewolves feel
positively Shakespearean by comparison.
There has never – and I mean never – been a blander movie
about undead creatures than VAMPIRE ACADEMY.
when the film bores us to death with its inexcusably longwinded expository
scenes that weakly attempt to explain the whole minutia of its
vampire-heavy world, VAMPIRE ACADEMY sure as hell thinks it’s a lot more
sly, sophisticated, and crafty on a level of wink-wink satire than it
really is. Days later, I’m
still taking great pains to remember what the film was actually about, but
I’ll try my best to recap here. The
film contains three levels of vampires: There’s the Moroi vamps that are
able to live harmoniously with other human beings; there’s Dhampirs, the
bodyguard-like vampires that protect the Moroi; finally, there’s the
nefarious Strigoi, a monstrous group of vampires that essentially are the
de facto villains of this universe.
you bored yet? I am.
Moroi vampire in particular, Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) shares a psychic
connection with her Dhampir guardian, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch, daughter
of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch).
Both of these vampires have been on the run for two years after
they escaped St. Vincent Vladimir Academy (a school for, yes, Vampires) in
Montana. Early in the film
the pair are captured and promptly returned to the school, which pretty
much remains an unhinged environment for any vampire to exist in.
As Lissa and Rose attempt to come to grips with their dicey
situation and learn all of the mysteries of the Strigoi, Rose finds herself
clinging to a local man from the school named Dimitri Belikov (Danila
Kozlovsky) when she’s not subsisting on the blood of Rose, who offers it
to her in a semi-erotic (at least as far as a PG-13 film will allow)
Lissa is important, though, as she’s a Moroi princess that might
be the heir to the throne of Queen Tatiana (Joely Richardson), which means that
keeping her safe from the Strigoi is of primary importance.
ACADEMY’s attempts at trying to establish the particulars of its
universe border on tedious and tortuous and the film takes seemingly
forever to get to some semblance of an actual narrative.
It would be easy to simplistically label the film as a lame brained
hodgepodge of TWILIGHT and MEAN GIRLS,
but the film feels more like an egregious combination of the former and
HARRY POTTER. In its attempts
at downright mimicry of those popular franchises, though, VAMPIRE ACADEMY
doesn’t seem to have the foggiest clue of what type of tone to maintain
or what kind of narrative it wants to tell.
The only thing that distinguishes it from the TWILIGHT films is
that it appears even more haphazardly constructed than anything Meyers
envisioned. At least she
seemed to have a sense of an overarching mythology and story trajectory,
whereas VAMPIRE ACADEMY has a disagreeable level of aimlessness.
film sure thinks it’s subversively funny.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY attempts, I think, to take a satirical – ahem!
– bite out of the teen comedy the young adult fantasy genre in equal
measure (it even manages a verbal shot at TWILIGHT’s “sparkling
vampires" for good measure), but the whole film is so schizophrenic in
maintaining a consistent vibe that it often comes off unintentionally as a
laughable parody itself. And
the lines that some of the young actors here are forced to elicit will
make even the most stilted and forced dialogue passages between Edward
Cullen and Bella Swan feel borderline poetic.
Such would-be uproarious phrases like “Queen bee.
More like Queen b-otch” or “Sweet sassy molassy” made me
frankly mortified that Daniel Waters even thought they were acceptable
for a feature film. Another
example of ineptly flavorless dialogue: (Teen vamp 1): “Bite me!”
(Teen Vamp 2): “You wish, blood whore.”
These exchanges made my ears bleed.
performances – some from unknown actors and some from established ones
– are uniformly embarrassing. Zoey
Deutch does have a natural screen presence and has a bitchy spunk to her,
but she never makes Rose a figure even remotely worthy of our rooting
interest, seeing as she’s established with such annoying personality
quirks that you want to slap them right off her face.
Her “love interest” in Danila Kozlovsky is so charmless and
one-note in his performance that he makes Robert Pattinson’s wooden and
stoic vampire look like he has a frenzied case of multiple personality
disorder. Hell, even stalwart
and dependable actors like Richardson and Gabriel Byrne show up in meager
supporting turns and appear like they lost a wager that forced them into
only saving grace to VAMPIRE ACADEMY would have been its vamp-on-vamp
action, but it’s hilariously mismanaged from a perspective of basic
fight choreography and cohesive editing (there are even sequences that
manage to throw in the most wretched looking CGI werewolves that I can
recall into the mix for the final kick to the qualitative gonads).
For a film that’s about supernatural creatures, VAMPIRE ACADEMY
is utterly and feebly bereft of any discernable movie magic.
It achieves the impossible of being even duller and more disposable
than any of the worst entries in the TWILIGHT franchise in its ironic
attempts to both copy and send-up that series.
Leaving the screening I felt soulless and empty, but those feelings
gave way to panic-stricken anger when I later read that the producers of
this film are trying a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a sequel,
seeing as this film was such a flop that no Hollywood studio would touch
financing a sequel with a ten-foot pole.
campaign hit over a million bucks in 30 days.
My faith in humanity has been crushed.