glitter_n_gore: (underworld)
glitter_n_gore ([personal profile] glitter_n_gore) wrote2016-05-24 12:39 pm

YA Adaptations: Vampire Academy

As anyone who's known me for a reasonable period of time knows: If there are vampires in it, I have seen it. If I haven't seen it, I at least know it exists, and it is on my list. So it was only a matter of time before Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy came into my life. I've only read the first two so far, but I love them.

Book Cover via Goodreads

As the title suggests, we're in a boarding school for vampires. Not just any vampires, but an elite group of teens separated into the Moroi (full-blooded vamps with magical powers associated with different elements), and the Dhampir (half-human vamps with supernatural strength who act as bodyguards). There's a third group, called Strigoi, who are evil blood-thirsty monsters who no longer resemble the people they once were--basically your more traditional vampires.

In the first book, the main character, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutsch) and her best friend Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) have run away from the school. They're tracked down after about a year, but in the meantime a few changes have taken place: Lissa is no longer the popular Queen Bee type at the school, despite being next in line for the throne. A new Dhampir training specialist, Dimitri, has been assigned to whip Rose into shape and keep an eye on her, in case she gets any ideas about running away again. Also, dead animals have begun to turn up at the school--usually just in time for Lissa to find and mysteriously heal them.

The plot is actually quite involved: there's some shady dealings going on with the line of succession; this kid Christian (Dominic Sherwood--yes, that's Jace from the Shadowhunters TV series) whose parents both turned Strigoi and the rest of the students shun him for it; and the mystery of Saint Vladimir (really) and his "shadow-kissed" lover; but that's all you really need to know for now. I loved this book for many reasons, but the main one is it focuses on the friendship between the two girls. Both of them get romantic subplots, because of course they do, but that stays in the background. The central theme is actually quite simple, and universal: your true friends, no matter what changes around you, and whatever forces try to come between you, will have your back no matter what.

That's the case with the movie too. So while it's certainly not a perfect adaptation, it is a suitable and appropriate one. Also--hilarious.

It's . . . flawed. The biggest problem is the plot being too complex and unwieldy to develop at a satisfying pace. The book had space to breathe, to let you work out the mystery of the dead animals and Lissa's growing powers and her increasingly shaky mental state, as well as Rose's continual struggle to fit in and keep her friendship with Lissa intact even when she starts to grow in a different direction. The movie keeps most of those things, but I wonder if maybe it kept too many of them. Look, we all get annoyed when an adaptation changes things, especially when we really loved the book. But they're different mediums. As such, not only are a lot of those changes inevitable--sometimes they're necessary. Trying to stuff every plot point into a 90 minute feature makes this feel cramped, rushed, and dizzying. As you might recall, this was my same problem with the Mortal Instruments movie.

The other thing is the book existed in a pre-Twilight universe. The movie does not. In fact, the script goes to great lengths to hang a lampshade on the tropes we've come to associate with vampires, especially in the YA PNR sector. So while the pacing is very fast, it's also very self-aware, and quite funny. It's a John Waters movie, so if constant quipping and pop culture references aren't your thing, it can be exhausting. Overall, I like this movie, but like The Mortal Instruments, I think this one might have worked better as a TV show.

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