Here’s the thing. It’s almost impossible to release a YA book or film these days without someone saying that it copied off Twilight or Harry Potter or whatever. Vampire Academy was no exception. Desperate to squeeze those last dregs of profit from the whole vampire craze, it was doomed from the start and I’m not going to lie… this movie sucked. (Sorry, obligatory vampire pun!).
That being said, it was an admirable effort. With a slew of witty one-liners and endless fight sequences, and a charismatic central character, I felt like this would have been better suited as a TV series.
The film takes place in Montana, where our main characters attend the boarding school, St Vladimir’s Academy. In this world, there are three subgroups: the Moroi (good vampires), the Strigoi (bad vampires), and the dhampir (half-Moroi/half-human; who spend their entire lives protecting the Moroi).
Rose Hathaway is a dhampir who must keep her best friend, a royal Moroi called Lissa Dragomir, out of harm’s reach. Following the death of Lissa’s family in a car crash, the they form an unbreakable psychic connection, and run away from their school (dubbed ‘Vampire Academy’ by its pupils).
Finally, a Russian dhampir called Dimitri tracks them down, and they are forced back to their former lives at Vampire Academy, where they must deal with the consequences of their actions: the mysterious disappearance of their teacher, Lissa’s spooky power to control minds and resurrect dead animals, Rose’s crush on her mentor, and a ton of petty high school drama that nobody really cares about.
In a shocking twist, a trusted friend of the Dragomir family is revealed as the bad guy. Along with his daughter, Natalie, they pushed Lissa to the brink of insanity with dead animals in the hopes that her powers of healing would cure his illness. After this plan fails, he escapes imprisonment and leaves his newly-turned Strigoi daughter to be staked by Rose and Dimitri.
The film ends with Lissa making a passionate speech to the school about blood and family, while Rose and Dimitri are forced to accept that they could never become an item.
Readers were annoyed when it was announced that Zoey Deutch would play Rose Hathaway. Despite this pressure, Deutch has successfully captured the same personality as book!Rose. She proved herself as a charismatic and versatile actress, mastering the comedic timing perfectly with her snarky remarks, and establishing her badassery from her fight scenes with Dimitri and other characters.
However, I wasn’t entirely convinced by Lucy Fry‘s portrayal of Lissa Dragomir. Perhaps it was the fake accent, a completely stereotypical view of what people think a British accent should sound like. An awful one, if I may add.
Danila Kozlovsky, who played Dimitri, killed it with the fighting scenes. I was never a fan of the Rose/Dimitri pairing in the books and thought they would be better suited as friends. While he seemed to share a great on-screen chemistry with Deutch, their ‘sweet-sassy-molassy’ love scene felt way too awkward on the big screen.
From the casting news, I thought that Dominic Sherwood had the right looks, but he proved himself to be more than just a pretty face, playing the silent and brooding Christian Ozera, who quickly transformed from creepy attic troll to badass fire starter.
I was also impressed by Cameron Monaghan, who played Mason Ashford, and his witty dialogue and play-fighting with Rose provided much enjoyment. Meanwhile, Sami Gayle was the perfect Mia, even though I suffered from a lot of second-hand cringe thanks to her character: “Why were you in hospital? Pregnant? Herpes? Maybe your baby has herpes!”.
A Film for Feminists?
Vampire Academy might seem like another vapid teen movie, but it is unique in one sense, through the representation of women. For one thing, it passed the Bechdel Test, showing two females who can hold a conversation without talking about men.
At the center of all this drama, there is a love story between Rose and Lissa. Not in the romantic sense, but instead, a profound bond between two best friends. This is surprisingly rare in the YA genre, but the VA writers thought it was so important that they renamed the film ‘Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters‘.
Another example includes the prom scene. Mason Ashford expects a reward for solving the blood-on-the-wall conundrum, but Rose doesn’t swoon and fall into his arms like a damsel-in-distress. She doesn’t give herself to Mr Nice Guy. She is free to make her own choices over her sexuality, free to shamelessly pursue people like Jesse because she finds them good-looking. The film even makes references to the term ‘slut-shaming‘ in Lissa’s final speech- a term which I have never heard being used in fiction and despite the failures of the film, this was actually something that they actually did right.
Kirova: Rose Hathaway is wild, dangerous–
Rose: Right here, folks. Right here.
Victor: Don’t take this the wrong way, Rose, but I probably should have killed you.
Rose: There’s a compliment in there somewhere.