Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, half human-half vampire, a guardian of the Moroi, peaceful, mortal vampires living discreetly within our world. Her calling is to protect the Moroi from bloodthir... Read allRose Hathaway is a Dhampir, half human-half vampire, a guardian of the Moroi, peaceful, mortal vampires living discreetly within our world. Her calling is to protect the Moroi from bloodthirsty, immortal Vampires, the Strigoi.Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, half human-half vampire, a guardian of the Moroi, peaceful, mortal vampires living discreetly within our world. Her calling is to protect the Moroi from bloodthirsty, immortal Vampires, the Strigoi.
Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir: a half-human/half-vampire girl born to be a Guardian to the Moroi - a race of peaceful, magical and mortal vampires. Rose shares a psychic bond with her best friend Lissa (Lucy Fry), a Moroi princess who's the last of her particular bloodline. Rose's task is to protect Lissa from the Strigoi: immortal, blood-hungry vampires with neither soul nor depth of feeling. But the Strigoi have nothing on the vagaries of high school: Rose and Lissa must deal with nasty pranks and clique politics, even as the conspiracy against Lissa gains a strength that suggests it might go deeper than anyone suspects.
Amidst the rush and rage of high school, we'll meet Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky), Dhampir extraordinaire; Natalie (Sarah Hyland), the geeky daughter of Victor (Gabriel Byrne), a friend of Lissa's family; and Christian (Dominic Sherwood), a brooding young man whose Moroi parents chose to turn themselves into Strigoi by taking innocent lives. Not to mention Mia (Sami Gayle), the catty girl who has it out for Lisa and the film's biggest 'stars': Olga Kurylenko as batty headmistress Kirova and Joely Richardson as Moroi queen Tatiana.
If that sounds like a surfeit of story, you haven't even heard the half of it. Vampire Academy is jam-packed with details, exposition and characters, all of them jostling for attention. There are complex rules and taboos surrounding the entire society, most of which are either shoe-horned awkwardly into dialogue or tossed quickly into the story as it tumbles by at a breathless pace. The characters' quips and depth get a little lost in the tumult. It's really what keeps the film from finding its feet: the ideas crammed into Mead's universe simply aren't given much room to breathe.
Stick with the film, however, and it evens out into a fun - if rather frustrating - viewing experience. There's a welcome cheeky bite (pun very much intended) to the script, which somewhat makes up for the unsettling choppiness of the story. Rose, too, makes for a spunky protagonist who's several worlds away from Twilight's tragically unprogressive heroine, Bella. She kicks butt, loses her temper, and reels off sarcastic zingers - all while demonstrating that she's every bit as capable as Dimitri and the guys around her. The element of romance that's an inevitable part of every high-school film doesn't grate as much as it might: the final moment between Rose and Dimitri is a heartfelt, surprising delight, and one of the most refreshing scenes you're ever likely to see in a teen movie.
The cast is mostly competent, with Deutch the clear stand-out. Carrying the entire, occasionally unwieldy film on her shoulders, she's hugely likable and natural on screen. Her compatriots fare less well, with Fry in particular feeling rather awkward and hamstrung in her part. Hyland, meanwhile, has quite a bit of fun subverting any expectations audiences might have of her based on her sassy airhead role in Modern Family. Byrne plays it straight, if a little tortured, while Kurylenko and Richardson seem to have wandered in from a high-camp pantomime.
Vampire Academy is very far from high art: it's too messily stitched together for that, bursting at the seams from a slightly nonsensical plot that often threatens to overwhelm the characters and their relationships. But it's also quite far from the travesty that most critics have suggested it is. There's something smarter and more enjoyable at work here, even if it sometimes gets buried beneath the machinations of its own script.
- Feb 26, 2014