Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book to Movie Challenge: Vampire Academy

The first book available from the library was Vampire Academy - not surprisingly, it had the shortest waiting list. I don't blame anyone as this is the book I was also least excited to read.  In fact, the only reason I decided to read it at all was because it was the first book available and I was anxious to get started (I also wanted something I could easily read during the semester).


A synopsis from the Buzzfeed article:
St. Vladimir’s Academy is a school for dhampirs, vampire-human hybrids who serve as guardians, and Moroi, “good” vampires with an ability to use magic from one of the four elements (water, fire, air, and earth). Vampire princess Lissa Dragomir and dhampir Rose Hathaway are best friends, connected through a special bond that they can’t quite explain. After escaping school for two years, the girls are brought back to the academy and are faced with Lissa’s mystery element (or lack thereof?) and the danger it brings.

First impression: the girl on the cover looks like Angelina Jolie... which didn't work for me.

My biggest concern was that I didn't like the protagonist, Rose, 90% of the time.
- She was too sexualized.  She objectifies men and teases them relentlessly for the fun of it (and because, as she says several times, she knows they want her because she was the hottest girl on campus), but doesn't actually like any of them.  She doesn't have sex with them, but she has the reputation of being a slut and doesn't do much to disprove people.  I get that Rose is suppose to be a strong woman in control of her sexuality but this takes it a little too far.  It seems a little extreme for a Young Adult book.
- She is annoyingly inconsistent. She claims to be so dedicated to her job at protecting Lissa that she has stopped drinking, but then claims pride in "pulling crazy stunts" and is rash and unpredictable. Then again, Rose's also 17, so maybe I would have appreciated her attitude swings a little more if we were in the same age group.
-I did like that there were moments of maturity and responsibility, Rose did seemed to grow and mature... some.
- She's kind of a brat.
- Most of these problems could have been eliminated (or at least minimized) had the narrator been third person.  It was infuriating to be in her head.

The world of the book was interesting.
- The secondary and tertiary characters aren't too 2-demensional.
- The two races of characters have a complex reproductive and political system that is creative and unlike anything I've read before, but, as one other reviewer put it on Goodreads: "The lore behind the story is complex, convoluted and somewhat ridiculous"  It also seems like a system that isn't likely to be long sustained.  The Moroi (Lissa's folk) wield power and magic but can't reproduce amongst themselves.  They can reproduce with the Dhampir (Rose's folk) and are dependent on them for protection against the Strigoi (like traditional vampires).  So basically, the Dhampir could very easily exist without the Moroi, and would potentially be better off without them since, in trying to protect the Moroi, the Strigoi are killing them off.  Not to mention that their dedication to protecting the Moroi keeps them from being able to have any freedom: they can't have relationships within their kind, and if they do have children (because they're whored out to a Moroi to reproduce) they have to adopt them out to be raised by others in order to return to their job. Not to mention that they can't have any sort of career outside of being bodyguards.  It's a very limited and flawed system.

Pacing was good; however, the author kept the mystery at bay long enough for me to find Rose more annoying than heroic. I wish we understood a little sooner why she was doing what she was.

The word "badass" is used so often it's almost a character in it's own right.  Kind of like Stephanie Meyer's (over)use of "chagrin."  Then again, at least chagrin is an SAT word.

Despite the book's flaws, I found myself disappointed that I had finished it, wanted to keep reading.  That doesn't necessarily mean I'm jumping to read the sequels (but I have put myself on the short waiting list for the second book...)

I think this will work better as a film and I'm interested to see how it translates.


I had high hopes about this film because the trailer seemed energetic, fun, and funny. It was reminiscent of Mean Girls which I greatly enjoyed. Turns out, not only is the film directed by Mark Waters, who directed Mean Girls, but the screenplay was written by his brother, Daniel Waters, who wrote Heathers. Good times were surely in store!


The best part of the DVD was the extra interview with the author, Rachelle Mead, who explained that the story was inspired by a Romanian legend that she wanted to bring into the modern world. Now that is interesting.

I can't believe I am about to write this, because this is never the case with films and I always want the movie to be more like the book in some way, but I wish this movie had been less like the book. The plot of the book is pretty complicated and in order to explain everything there is a voice over at the beginning explaining the three different races of vampires and their history. That was fine and, frankly, necessary. But the exposition did not stop there. The primary purpose of the very bad dialogue was to feed the audience information. "But Barbara, isn't that what dialogue is suppose to do? Further the plot?" Yes, but good dialogue reveals information naturally and unobtrusively.

For example (and I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the script in front of me), Rose and Lissa have a psychic bond where, at uncontrollable times, Rose can see through Lissa's eyes and experience things that are happening to her. Through these experiences, we learn that Lissa has met a fellow Moroi (good vampire) boy named Christian. In the movie, the scene begins with Lissa entering a room in the campus chapel to retreat from the stress of her day and discovering Christian has also taken refuge there.

Dialogue begins. "What are you doing here, this is my spot." "You've been gone for a long time, it's mine now" etc.

CUT TO ROSE who is in training witnessing the exchange through their bond, and begins speaking out loud to no one: "why are you talking to him?!"

Cut back to the chapel. More dialogue. Lissa begins to warm to Christian.

CUT BACK TO ROSE who is still speaking to no one (Lissa can't hear her and she knows this) "Don't talk to him! You know his parents turned Strigoi" (bad vampires) "and had to be hunted down!"

The cuts - and there were more than just those two - ruined any flow the scene had There were many, MANY exchanges like this, some in the form of visions, and other just normal dialogue between people in the same room. "Rose, it's been two years since my family died in that crash and one year since we ran away. Do you really think they're still looking for us?" It felt like the film makers didn't trust the audience enough to allow us to figure things out on our own. We were spoon fed the story and it was dumb and insulting.

The pacing of the story was also all over the place and lacked any flow. While the mystery in the book was revealed kind of late, the movie started it sooner, but then lost track and jumped around too much to make it interesting. No time was given to us to process new information and important scenes were bulldozed to get to funny quips, shopping, and Rose trying to flirt with her trainer.

The acting was tolerable and it was nice to have a little less of Rose's inner dialogue.

Ultimately, I don't recommend this movie. It's even too bad to be ironically enjoyed.

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