Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: Vampire Academy

This misbegotten mashup will please few genre fans.

Feb 8, 2014

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1393958-Vampire_Academy_Md.jpg
From the 40-plus minutes of tediously expository dialogue that starts it off to the exsanguinated cover of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" that accompanies the closing credits, Mark Waters' Vampire Academy is a film as soul-sucking as any of the fang-baring bores who populate it. Neither the comedy advertised on posters ("They suck at school," the tagline snickers) nor the self-aware adventure its makers seem to have intended, the film will likely turn to dust quickly in theatres despite its best-selling source material. Hopes for a nascent franchise seem far-fetched.

A decade ago, Waters was directing hit girl-centric comedies Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. Here he adapts a series of young-adult novels by Richelle Mead that, if the film is any reflection, are blatantly derivative of Twilight, Harry Potter and a few sources lower down the blockbuster ladder. While much Potter-style backstory is dredged up here, the foreground action concerns three different breeds of vampire: Moroi, who are a kind of Vamp Lite; Dhampir, the half-breeds who serve and protect them; and Strigoi, the red-eyed creeps who attack friendly vampires and mortals alike.

Our sometime narrator Rose (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir, servant of a Moroi princess named Lissa (Lucy Fry). The two share an unusually strong bond and have been on the run for a while before being dragged back to Hogwarts-style St. Vladimir's Academy by a team of "Guardians" led by the hot but humorless Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky). After a few days watching the cliquey bullying and teen melodramas at St. Vlad's, most viewers will feel the need to escape as well.

It would take more bandwidth than the film deserves to detail the yarn's numbing mythology and interpersonal dynamics, which remain a bit unclear even for those who are paying attention. The plot's a special challenge given the plywood-like performance of Fry as the story's ostensible center: Blessed or cursed with exceptional powers, Lissa shifts abruptly from put-upon underdog to supernatural Queen Bee and back again as unidentified villains try to ruin her reputation with gossip and violent pranks.

More engaging is Deutch's Rose, whose wiseacre performance and gratuitous cleavage might have held viewers' attention in a different sort of movie. Here, though, there's no room for sass (and no dialogue to convey it). The best the screenplay can do is to give Rose a primal crush on Dimitri, who trains her in hand-to-Strigoi combat when she's not busy going into trance-like telepathic states that make her a passive observer to Lissa's various dramas. (Lissa's a fairly passive observer to them as well.)

Limping around in the background is a terminally ill vampire played by Gabriel Byrne. Waters deserves some kind of recognition for wringing a rare bad performance out of Byrne, though the screenplay—which has him offering bloodsucker-themed putdowns such as "She's a few corpuscles shy of a full artery"—should share credit. In a movie that doesn't know what kind of story it's trying to tell, Byrne isn't the only one who seems confused.
—The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Vampire Academy

This misbegotten mashup will please few genre fans.

Feb 8, 2014

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1393958-Vampire_Academy_Md.jpg

From the 40-plus minutes of tediously expository dialogue that starts it off to the exsanguinated cover of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" that accompanies the closing credits, Mark Waters' Vampire Academy is a film as soul-sucking as any of the fang-baring bores who populate it. Neither the comedy advertised on posters ("They suck at school," the tagline snickers) nor the self-aware adventure its makers seem to have intended, the film will likely turn to dust quickly in theatres despite its best-selling source material. Hopes for a nascent franchise seem far-fetched.

A decade ago, Waters was directing hit girl-centric comedies Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. Here he adapts a series of young-adult novels by Richelle Mead that, if the film is any reflection, are blatantly derivative of Twilight, Harry Potter and a few sources lower down the blockbuster ladder. While much Potter-style backstory is dredged up here, the foreground action concerns three different breeds of vampire: Moroi, who are a kind of Vamp Lite; Dhampir, the half-breeds who serve and protect them; and Strigoi, the red-eyed creeps who attack friendly vampires and mortals alike.

Our sometime narrator Rose (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir, servant of a Moroi princess named Lissa (Lucy Fry). The two share an unusually strong bond and have been on the run for a while before being dragged back to Hogwarts-style St. Vladimir's Academy by a team of "Guardians" led by the hot but humorless Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky). After a few days watching the cliquey bullying and teen melodramas at St. Vlad's, most viewers will feel the need to escape as well.

It would take more bandwidth than the film deserves to detail the yarn's numbing mythology and interpersonal dynamics, which remain a bit unclear even for those who are paying attention. The plot's a special challenge given the plywood-like performance of Fry as the story's ostensible center: Blessed or cursed with exceptional powers, Lissa shifts abruptly from put-upon underdog to supernatural Queen Bee and back again as unidentified villains try to ruin her reputation with gossip and violent pranks.

More engaging is Deutch's Rose, whose wiseacre performance and gratuitous cleavage might have held viewers' attention in a different sort of movie. Here, though, there's no room for sass (and no dialogue to convey it). The best the screenplay can do is to give Rose a primal crush on Dimitri, who trains her in hand-to-Strigoi combat when she's not busy going into trance-like telepathic states that make her a passive observer to Lissa's various dramas. (Lissa's a fairly passive observer to them as well.)

Limping around in the background is a terminally ill vampire played by Gabriel Byrne. Waters deserves some kind of recognition for wringing a rare bad performance out of Byrne, though the screenplay—which has him offering bloodsucker-themed putdowns such as "She's a few corpuscles shy of a full artery"—should share credit. In a movie that doesn't know what kind of story it's trying to tell, Byrne isn't the only one who seems confused.
—The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Dumb and Dumber To
Film Review: Dumb and Dumber To

Please, guys, don't do this to There's Something About Mary. More »

Beyond the Lights
Film Review: Beyond the Lights

Here we finally have the showbiz drama-romance which Glitter, Burlesque, both versions of Sparkle and countless glitzy but dreary others have tried to be. Immensely enjoyable corn done with maximum hipness, the perfect date movie and showcase for the astonishingly versatile Gugu Mbatha-Raw. More »

Rosewater
Film Review: Rosewater

TV satirist Jon Stewart takes a hairpin turn from comedy into serious territory with his filmmaking debut, a taut political drama based on the true story of Iran-imprisoned Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Foxcatcher review
Film Review: Foxcatcher

Character is destiny in this masterfully controlled true-crime sports drama that will likely catapult Steve Carell into the Oscar race. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here