5 Reasons to Check Out “Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters”
We’re living in a golden age for young adult fiction – everywhere you look, all manner of YA books, whether they’re well-known bestsellers or cult-classics, are finding their way to the big screen.
Currently it seems the market is brimming with candidates attempting to fill in the gaps that have been left former franchise behemoths. Studios everywhere are in search of the next Harry Potter, the next Twilight, even the next Hunger Games, despite the fact that that series of films is still ongoing.
The unfortunate side-effect of this, however, is a case of over-saturation. This year alone we’ve had Warm Bodies, Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Ender’s Game with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still to come. Some of these films have tried to be original enough to stand out (zombies and witches instead of vampires) and some of them have been plain old “X meets Y so trust us, you’ll like it.”
The results have been varied – some of them managed to break out and make a decent profit. Others set sail to audience apathy, sneers from the critics and sunk without a trace at the box office. Despite this, Hollywood is continuing to gamble with YA adaptations in the hope of striking gold once again.
Next February (Valentine’s Day, no less), studios are hoping to see the vampire craze set alight once again with Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters – if ever a title sounded more hopeful for future installments. Based on the six-book series by Richelle Mead, it explores the world of Rose Hathaway, a half-human, half-vampire (or dhampir) as she trains to be a bodyguard for her best friend, Lissa, a mortal vampire (or Moroi) who is the last of her royal bloodline. The two attend St. Vladimir’s Academy (sounds corny, but bear with me) and feel the effects of social hierarchy, forbidden love and spooky goings-on, all while facing danger from the most dangerous vampires of all, the immortal ones who kill for blood (or Strigoi).
At first glance, the series seems to follow the X-meets-Y formula mentioned above – a mashing together of the illicit romance of Twilight and the boarding school of adventure á la Harry Potter. However, Vampire Academy manages to rise above these preconceptions and creates a universe and characters that feel original and identifiable. But as we all know, a good book doesn’t always necessarily make for a good movie. Sometimes it just doesn’t translate well to begin with; sometimes it ends up in the hands of people who haven’t got a clue what they’re doing; and sometimes good material is wasted in the hopes of a quick buck.
I have no clue which fate awaits Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters. As a fan of the books, I’m hopeful that it’ll somehow connect with audiences beyond the books’ followers and perform well with critics. In the meantime, I can help to drum up support for the movie by offering up reasons why it might be worth your time come February.
5. The vampires are the sort we’ve never seen before
The strange species of vampire mentioned above are based off of real mythology from Romania, the Balkans and Russia, though Richelle Mead tweaked them a bit in order to create something more distinct, which will hopefully let the film stand out amongst the glut of Twilight wannabes.
In the Vampire Academy universe, dhampirs are half-breeds and have the best of both attributes from humans and vampires, making them the ideal bodyguards for physically weaker Moroi. Moroi, being vampires, still have to drink blood but, crucially, don’t kill to do it. They also possess the powers to control one of the four elements or, in very rare cases, a mysterious fifth element. Strigoi are the ones that ring truest to what a traditional vampire is; turned via a bite, red-eyed, pale-skinned, ruthless, soulless, can’t enter holy ground and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. But they aren’t always victims. Sometimes they were good people who deliberately chose to go to the dark side.
This leads to the interesting dynamic of our heroes being not totally different from our villains, placing focus on how much our birthright determines what we do in life and how much of it is down to our own choices. Giving audiences this little bit extra to chew on might result in a better overall movie experience, if all goes according to plan.
4. The director and writer understand the set-up
Sibling-duo Mark and Daniel Waters have plenty of experience when it comes to targeting the young female demographic. Perhaps the best example of this is 2004’s cult favourite Mean Girls. While having Tina Fey on script-writing duty didn’t hurt in the slightest, Mark Waters also crafted entertaining and insightful imagery into the world of the high school female food chain – the backstabbing, the sneakiness, the over-the-top worship bestowed upon the queen bees by the no-hopers, the secret plots for revenge and the eventual sense that, yes, maybe there’s more to them than just being total bitches.
Daniel Waters, meanwhile, wrote the screenplay for 1988’s Heathers, a black comedy that mixes the sad tales of the pecking order with murder, intrigue and cover-ups – all things that play a vital role in Vampire Academy. As the books progress, things can get pretty (forgive me) bloody and with this prior experience, I’m hoping that Dan has successfully woven together the Gothic, seductive side of the story with its more down-to-earth elements.
3. Beyond the romance, there’s actually a decent plot and characters
Yes, you can see straight from the off that Rose is going to fall for her dashing young teacher, the “god” Dimitri Belikov, but for the most part, the romance in Book 1 is played pretty low-key. You know it’s there, but it doesn’t completely overwhelm the plot.
Instead, Mead takes a more in-depth approach in giving Rose lots of other problems to focus on because, let’s face it, she’s part of a supernatural world with dark creatures prowling the night, she’s behind on her classes, she has teachers breathing down her untrustworthy neck and that’s just scraping the surface. One of the main plot threads is Rose’s fears for the sanity of her best friend Lissa. The two share an unexplainable psychic bond and are pretty much the closest to family each other have left, since Rose’s mother abandoned her at the Academy to pursue her own bodyguard duties and she never met her father, while Lissa’s whole family perished in a car crash.
As the plot progresses, we feel, through Rose’s point-of-view, Lissa’s mind start to unravel as she copes with having unusual, unique powers that seem to come with a hefty dose of mental instability. It doesn’t help either, that there seem to be hate campaigns and rumours coming towards both girls, along with a creepy stalker element that doesn’t come to fruition till the end of the book. It’s both unsettling and intriguing while combining a relationship that feels tangibly loving and protective.
I would love for the film to put this as the main focus – the high school stuff and the vampire world is good and all, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t locate the beating heart behind it all. So, movie, don’t squander this.
2. The cast seems pretty good
Sometimes plumping for unknowns works well – it allows these young actors and actresses to carve out their own identity within the public conscience and provides them with a role that they can make entirely their own.
The most recognisable names in the cast are Gabriel Byrne, Joely Richardson and Quantum of Solace’s Olga Kurylenko – maybe not household names like Angelina Jolie or George Clooney, but they’re talented enough, and that’s all any film needs to get off the ground. I’d never heard of either Zoey Deutch or Lucy Fry (Rose and Lissa respectively) before their casting announcements, but having seen the trailer, I could see Deutch having a fair stab at Rose’s snarky train of thought and Fry giving off a sense of Lissa’s vulnerability that cloaks her inner strengths.
Until a further trailer comes out, however, this is the most we’ve seen acting-wise, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to see how Russian import Danila Kozlovsky fares as troubled, hunky Dimitri (I don’t want to say “as long as he’s cute, he’ll nail it” because there’s definitely more to Dimitri than that, especially as the series progresses) or to catch glimpses of fan favourites Christian, Mason and Mia. But for the moment, it’s a good place to start.
1. It could appeal to other demographics too
I will be the first to admit that the teaser trailer itself doesn’t really do the book justice, which is a shame because Vampire Academy honestly has a lot of potential for cross-appeal. The series shouldn’t be marketed as another Twilight clone since that’ll just turn a lot of viewers right off (sorry, Twilight fans) but rather, it should be marketed as what it actually is – an ass-kicking good time that is also clever, honest and can be taken seriously despite its premise.
I don’t want to compare it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s hard not to see the similarities. Provided there’s no interference from executives who might demand a bit of dumbing down, we’ll get to see Rose Hathaway show everyone, immortal or not, why she shouldn’t be messed with. There are plenty of male fans of Buffy, so Vampire Academy could possibly pique their interest. We just have to keep our fingers crossed that the creators are going to take the faithful route – which means we’re in for epic stakings through the heart and Strigoi heads rolling in their droves.
Thinking back to Mean Girls: on the surface it seems very much a girls-only movie but that managed to attract viewers from all walks of life thanks to its sharp-as-a-tack one-liners and its’ encapsulation of base human instincts – revenge, desire for approval, guilt and isolation – all rolled up in a package of pure entertainment.
I truly hope that the brothers Waters can infuse this winning formula into Blood Sisters – because what’s the best way for a movie to earn its wings. Simply by entertaining us, the willing public.
And there you have it – five reasons as to why Vampire Academy has the potential to break the mould. As with any film adaptation, I’d urge any interested parties to read the books first and see if they want to immerse themselves in this world.
In my own optimistic manner, I’m hoping that the movie is successful and accomplished enough to be able to break through to anyone who hasn’t read the book, like the best adaptations have done in the past. Of course, this all could be for naught and we might arrive in February to the same old fanfare from the critics and the usual Valentine’s Day movie slop. I know that in four months time, I might come out of the cinema feeling embarrassed for ever trying to hype this thing up.
But I’m living in the moment and at the moment, I’m cautiously idealistic that it won’t stink up cinemas like a corpse. I’m hoping that I and other Vampire Academy fans won’t be disappointed and will have something we can spearhead into cult status, maybe even teen movie glory. Till then, we can keep our stakes our standby.
What do you think? Leave a comment.