Vampire Academy Review: Like listening to a hormonal teenage girl with ADHD talk about her day

Hello. This is a Korean In America. Today, I review the new Young adult movie coming out in February that proves that the Young adult movie is dying from neglect.

Since the boom of the “Twilight” movies, Hollywood has been trying to recreate that “Twilight” spark again.

There was
“I Am Number Four”
“The Mortal Instruments”
“Beautiful Creatures”

However, most of the post “Twilight “movies were terrible disappointments in terms of both critical and financial receptions.  It is not easy to catch lightning in a bottle especially when you do it half ass.

Me and Young adult movies
I may not be the target audience of these movies since I am not a “tween” girl. This is true even if some trolls on my blog call be a “BITCH” on the comment section. In spite of this biological issue, I have actually seen most of the post “Twilight” Young adult movies and not because I was dragged to by a girlfriend. It was interesting to see how bad they are since you learn more from disasters than masterpieces!

“Twilight”is the only movie I remember walking out of ever.

Among the numerous Young adult movies, the only one I actually liked wasBeautiful Creatures”… well to a degree. The reasons…?

At first, I was not sure.

The story was nothing special.
The cinematography was just ok.
I hated the male lead who looked like a young Jack Nicholson.
I did not buy the love story.

After some self-analysis, I came to the understanding why I liked Beautiful Creatures”.

It was simply competently made.

It was like finding a term paper which is not great but the writing is coherent and most of the grammar is correct in stack of undergraduate term papers. After trying to grade woefully substandard term papers, just seeing a competently written one is a joy even though you can only give it a B grade on the actual content of the paper.


The plot
I came into the movie, “Vampire Academy”, totally cold. The only thing I knew about the movie was that the movie was like a combination between “Twilight” and “Harry Potter”.  And after seeing the movie, the plot was in fact a combination between “Twilight” and “Harry Potter”.

You have vampires who can do magic which does not actually play much of a role in the plot.
You have the divide between half breed vampires and full vampires.
You have off the wall dark vampires too.

These elements are all neatly confined within the walls of the relatively small school. In other words, the movie has all the creature comforts of ‘Hogwarts’. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem is that I did not know much more about the plot or the world created by the source material after seeing the movie than I had before seeing the movie. It would have been better to just read the wiki entry regarding the book than seeing the movie to understand what was going on.

The acting
The blame for this issue cannot be put on the acting!

This does not mean the acting in this movie is something to call home about.

The acting in ” Vampire Academy” by the young cast is nowhere near Oscar level. It just hovers above Disney channel level acting and is below CW channel acting. Among the cast, I especially liked Zoey Deutch playing the lead half breed vampire, Rose Hathaway. She is doing her best impression of a mix between Juno and Veronica Mars.

On the other hand, some do not even make it to Disney channel level acting.  To be frank, I could not even differentiate between the young male cast most of the time. Even experienced actors such as Gabriel Byrne and Joely Richardson are phoning it in and cashing a paycheck.

While this may not help the movie, the acting is not the main problem of this movie. The problem lies with the people behind the camera and not in front of it.

A hormonal teenage girl with ADHD

A movie is not a just a collection of scenes!

A scene in a movie has a specific function within the syntax of the movie’s narrative. Some act as nouns while others act as verbs. Thus, a collection of scenes can be seen as a sentence while a collection of ‘collection of scenes’ can be seen as a paragraph.

In any sentence, the elements such as verbs and nouns need to be aligned in an order to be coherent. Without that ordering of elements, the sentence become rather incoherent .This is similar to scene composition in movie writing.

When writing a movie screenplay, how each scene interacts with each other is vital to the narrative as each scene is not independent from the one that precedes it or follows it.

This is screen writing 101.

This is where “Vampire Academy” fails.

Watching the movie feels like listening to a hormonal teenage girl with ADHD talking about her life. Under the influence of a combination of tween slang, poor sentence composition, and lack of focus, it is lucky if you even get a sketchy idea of what she is saying.

That is what watching “Vampire Academy” feels like. The script is written as if the original source material was divided into several hundred pieces and outsourced to different writers to adapt without providing any context. Each scene feels like they stand alone and do not functions as a part of a coherent narrative.

The important dialogues are divided into several chunks and each chunk is inserted into a single scene preferable one with a large group of characters without any consideration to whether it seems natural that a character would have that dialogue at that moment. It is just economical to insert the dialogue where you have many characters in one scene.

So, the problem with the movie is in the screen writing. It is as if the screen writer had not written a script before and this was the writer’s first stab at it.

No pun intended!

The screen writer on this movie is Daniel Waters. His screenplay credits are “Hudson Hawk”, “Batman Returns”, “Demolition Man” and nothing in the 21st century. In other words, he is not much of a talent and is terribly rusty.

This lack of proper talent behind the camera for young adult movies is a common situation which can be traced back to the decline of the ‘Mid-Range’ Hollywood movies.

Rise of the Young adult movies & Decline of the “Mid-Range” Hollywood movies
The rise of the Young adult movies in Hollywood can be linked to the decline of the midrange movies in Hollywood. Straight dramas, thrillers, and romantic comedies have almost disappeared from the silver screen as key money makers. While these movie genres were never the kings of the hill when it comes to movie cash as a whole, they did pretty well for themselves before the 21st century.  This all changed with the shifting audience’s tastes and the increase of movie budgets. It is now difficult to make a profit with a Hollywood movie that costs around 40~70 million dollars in those genres.

The Hollywood reaction to the decline of the mid-range movies were Young adult movies which had an existing audience built in and could be made with a mid-range budget. The problems with this approach are twofold.

First, the original source material is not great literature. Rather, it is adequate writing highly tailored to a specific ‘tween’ girl audience. This means two things. The depth of the original source material is just deep enough to handle the ‘tween’ themes on a surface level. Also, there is a lot of psychological and literary ‘tween’ short hand in the original source material.

With making Young adult movies, ‘tween’ themes can be relatively easily translated from the written word to the movie medium. The larger problem is the ‘tween’ short hand which is more difficult to translate.

Second, there is the “Mid-Range” budget issue.  

What does “Mid-Range” budget mean in Hollywood?

One thing it does not mean is quality. While Young adult movies which tend to have fantasy elements can be done cheaper than bigger budget Hollywood movies, they are still more expensive than small dramas. Thus, you have to cut costs somewhere.  These cost cuts in this case usually comes out of the creative staff.

You do not get top directors, screen writers, and editors to do Young adult movies with the budget they have. The most you can get are the left overs. However, there are not many decent “Mid-Range” talents out there is Hollywood either. This is another consequence of the decline of “Mid-Range” movies. Most of the people who filled those roles have migrated over to cable television.

At the end
The movie, ”Vampire Academy”, just ends up proving that the Young adult movies are just a fad and not a proper movie genre which is similar position video game based movies are currently in.

Under the current Hollywood approach of using Young adult movies to replace its now defunct mid-range movies, the possibility that the behind the camera talent would be good enough to make a smooth transition of an already tricky source material from the written medium to silver screen is slim.

Well… Vampire Academy is at least better than “I, Frankenstein”.

The only thing I got out of the movie is getting introduced to Zoey Deutch as an actress and to the source material. While I do not expect the source material to be a masterpiece of the written word, the movie gave off an impression that the source material is much better than the movie. There seems to be enough campy fun elements to make an afternoon of fun reading.

Score: D+


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