David and I went and saw Vampire Academy this weekend. I have personally been looking forward to it because I really enjoyed the books. It is great because it created a new mythology and had two strong female leads. It is a young adult series, but it still dealt with a lot of bigger issues, politics, fate, destiny, growing up, etc, at the same time it takes the whole series to get to that point. The movie just covers the first part of the series and it can be difficult to go through a whole new mythology and structure while also telling a decent story.
The movie did a good job at telling the basics of the story in the book. The problem that kind of occurred is the fact that they seemed to explain things after the fact instead of as they were going along, which ended up being a bit confusing at points. In some ways they followed the book too closely as the reveals in the book happen over a long period of time and you keep wondering what is happening. In the movie it just seems too much like a red herring and trying to mislead the watcher.
The movie and the book both tell the same basic story. You have two female teenage best friends trying to deal with high school and the fact that one of them is a potential heir to the societies throne and the other is trying to become her guardian. Add on top of all that the fact that Rose and Vasilissa are bonded to each other. Ever since a horrific accident that killed all of Vasilissa’s family, and almost her and Rose, Rose can sometimes see her thoughts. The movie and book start out the same place where Rose and Vasilissa have run away from the school they were attending because they did not feel safe there. So of course the first thing that happens is they are taken back to the Academy and we get to have a better understanding about what was happening with these two characters.
Now there are parts of it that are very much like high school. There are the popular kids and the gossip, but add on top of that some of the class issues and the path of the guardians and you start to get in to some more adult concepts. The movie did up the action, but it makes sense for a movie to try and be more visual. At the same time it is kind of nice to have a story of two friends who are there for each other. Even though Rose is training to be a guardian she is still Vasilissa’s friend and they protect each other.
Misdirection versus Mystery
In the book much of the intrigue is not knowing why things are happening. We get some explanations in flashbacks, but there are a series of weird occurrences that happens and no one knows quite what is going on. In the movie it definitely feels like they are trying to purposely misdirect who you think is behind everything, but it almost makes the story more confusing. In the book you are trying to solve the mystery, while dealing with all of the other crap that high school can bring along with it. The fact that they do not explain enough of what is happening and the rules of the world make it difficult for people who have not read the book to fully appreciate what is happening.
I felt like the book does a really good job of know what to reveal when and how. They almost tried to match this pace too closely with the book and it ends up failing. The pace at which you read and absorb information from a book is much different than a movie. It does not make it bad it just makes the initial watching a little confusing if you do not know the story.
The other piece that is a little difficult is that they did not explain the mythology or rules of the world very well. It is a movie so you do not have much time and they did a decent job, but there are some important points that they did not give enough time to. The use of magic is glanced over and it is never fully explained how compulsion is or is not used. This is important because does it just change your opinion, which can lead to action or does it have the power to make you believe something happened that didn’t. Is it an illusionary trick, if you do not explain it well enough then people can put there own assumptions into it and make false judgments, which changes the meaning of the moments.
The other issue is the fact that they whole royal situation is kind of glanced over, when in the books it is super important. Most of the reason the stuff happens in the books is over who will be the next ruler. People are fighting over who can and will be the next leader for the society and many who disagree and who it should be. The larger political one is important because Vasilissa is a potential contender for the throne and the last of her line, which makes her special.
So my final thought and future post is that the movie was good, but I think it was made better by already knowing the story. I heard an interesting comment about the previews looking like a CW sitcom and it got me thinking about the fact that the show actually could have been a great tv show. There would be enough content to cover all the different angles presented and to draw out the mystery instead of using misdirection. It makes me a little sad that Vampire Academy did so bad because the story is so good and just gets better in my opinion. Now one reason I think opening weekend did SO BADLY is because they seemed to have switched the opening date at the last minute, which really did not help. I also do not know how popular these books are compared to other things. I think it did a decent adaptation in to movie form, but per usual the book does it better.