‘Vampire Academy:’ It’s not bad enough to be so good, it's just bad
It’s not often anything gets a second chance at a live-action screen adaptation, but this last month fans of author Richelle Mead's six book series “Vampire Academy” got to see their favorite characters return to the (small) screen. Advertised as a more respected revival of the 2014 movie adaptation, the bar for Peacock’s “Vampire Academy” was already low. Unfortunately, we’re halfway through the series ten planned episodes, and it’s kind of ass (with lots of ass cheeks). At least so far.
The series gained a weak, shaky footing over the first four episodes released at once, but the first episode was all over the place. There are a million different storylines, too many characters to keep track of, no sense of pacing or age-rating and the video effects are stuck in 2004. It might be easy for someone who has read all six of the books or watched the 2014 movie to understand what’s going on, but newcomers to the franchise have no chance.
“Vampire Academy” tells the story of Lissa (Daniela Nieves), a royal Moroi (vampires, who also have magic) of the Dragomir line, and Rose (Sisi Stringer), a Dhampir (half-vampire) guardian sworn to protect the Moroi. After a tragic accident, Lissa and Rose’s devoted friendship cause problems for the royal court, and they must navigate their new roles in Dominion society together at St. Vladimir's Academy, aka “Vampire Academy” high school.
“Vampire Academy” is a world of its own. Rather than capitalizing on the extra time a TV series provides to build that world, the show spits out too many fictional terms, traditions and history lessons at once. A cheesy opening montage with dictionary definitions isn’t enough to establish the nuanced society that “Vampire Academy” fans know it to be. The show fails both its faithful fans and its new viewers.
If you can suffer through the hip-hop music disco slash pop-quiz in ancient vampire society history that is the first episode, it does get better. The relationships between the characters get better by the third episode and the audience actually has a reason to care about them.
But as the series grows, so does the list of other pop-culture screen adaptions the Peacock show producers mooched off of. Colored banners in red, green, yellow and blue representing elemental factions that students are sorted into? “Harry Potter.” High society dude-bros being told to have sex with more-or-less willing lower caste women in order to populate their ranks? “The Handmaids Tale.” A ballroom full of Macy's prom dresses that are kind of regency-era, kind of not, while the belle of the ball’s brother bares his ass cheeks in the back room? “Bridgerton.” The list is endless.
It's a tragedy really, because the “Vampire Academy” franchise had so much going for it already.
For one, St. Vladimir's is supposed to be located in Montana, two hours from Missoula (hence the 2014 line, “Trust me, you do not want to have to get a nose job in Montana!”). There’s even rumored to be a shot of the University of Montana’s Main Hall in the 2014 movie.
More important is that the 2014 adaption leaned into the cheesiness of a high-school based vampire movie. The new series aims high with adult themes and soap-opera level seriousness, but ultimately falls short. Sure, the 2014 movie flopped at the box office, but at least it stayed truer to the books than the series does. So priorities are important, and so is staying faithful to the source material. At least they cast Mia McKenna-Bruce. The show’s got that going for it.
Also, what the hell did they do with Dimitri Belakov’s (Kieron Moore) brooding Russian accent? He sounds like he’s British now, pretending to be Russian. It’s bad enough that characters Dimitri and Rose look like age appropriate lovebirds. That was the whole point of their romance–it was inappropriate, between a young student and a ridiculously hot middle-aged teacher. That tension is gone now and the book nerd purists want it back.
Like a vampire sitting down for a feeding in that sterile, creepy-ass looking cafeteria, Peacock may have bitten off more than it can chew. The show has five more episodes to prove this adaption is better than the last. Hopefully, that includes less ass cheeks and more Russian accents.
New episodes are released on the streaming service Peacock on Thursdays. Subscribers to Peacock Plus have limited early access.
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