Vampire Academy is a big sack of random, none of it good. Taking a “jack of all trades, master of none” approach, it’s little more than a string of various genre-specific moments (magic! high school drama! romance! fights!), all of it haphazardly arranged to where it feels made up as the cast and crew went along.
Brothers Daniel and Mark Waters, individually responsible for ushering Heathers and Mean Girls to the screen in some key regard, have no such luck meshing those projects’ acid high school wit with the contents of Richelle Mead’s supernatural novel. Opening with a scene cued to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” cinema’s new over-played song, they quickly get into trouble sharing the story’s unfortunately complicated mythology. Introducing the three types of vampires in this world, the film sets a new low for fantasy by putting accompanying text on screen. (Imagine if The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter did that with its creatively named creatures.)
Vampire Academy doesn’t improve when the action shifts to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a Montana hideout primarily populated by benevolent Russian and British blood-suckers (Moroi) and their protectors-in-training (Dhampirs). Like Captain Planet’s Planeteers, the Moroi manipulate wind, water, earth, and fire, but without a catchy theme song, an animated monkey by their side, or a muscular blue dude with a green flat-top mullet to lead them.
Our guides to this world are Princess Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) and her Dhampir, Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), who return to St. Vladimir’s after a brief stint ducking evil vampires (Strigoi) in civilization. Should she choose to pursue it, Ellen Page has a strong copyright infringement suit against Deutch. Her Rose is a blatant Juno derivative, from her nasally sexy voice to her non sequiturs to her awkward-cute facial expressions. The plagiarism stings all the more since Rose’s dialogue isn’t as sharp as she assumes and the conflict she’s a part of is a yawner.
Navigating both everyday teenage perils and nosferatu, Vampire Academy attempts to be many things and ends up being few. Whenever a character (usually Rose) tries to explain the details of their environment, the effort only makes the film sillier. Characters lick bloody walls as if auditioning for CSI; vampire die-hards offer themselves up for feeding, followed by a mind wipe; and there’s much ado about folks on the brink of death being “shadow-kissed.” All of this is interspersed with stretches of Rose’s eyes going yellow as she sees what Lissa sees, the result of a powerful bond whose detailed origin only further muddies the pool.
In getting to the bottom of what it all means, supposed major revelations are introduced with nonchalance and the ultimate conflict hardly seems like the big deal it’s made out to be. The issue feels like it could have been resolved by the villain simply asking for what he or she wanted, but what can one expect from a film that mocks Twilight fan fiction with an air of superiority (as if the source novel wasn’t a reactionary cash grab to capitalize on Stephenie Meyer’s series)? With so much going wrong, it’s only fitting that the film ends with delusional hints at a sequel. If The Golden Compass and, hell, even Beautiful Creatures didn’t get second installments, there’s no way Vampire Academy will.
Rated PG-13 for violence, bloody images, sexual content and language.
Vampire Academy is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.