Vampire Academy

Directed By: Mark Waters

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Danila Kozlovsky, Lucy Fry, Dominic Sherwood, Olga Kurylenko, Cameron Monaghan, Sami Gayle, Ashley Charles, Claire Foy, Sarah Hyland, Gabriel Byrne, and Joely Richardson

With the Harry Potter franchise wrapping up almost three years ago and The Hunger Games series concluding in the very near future, studios are on the hunt for the next big literary adaptation.  2013 boasted mostly mediocre additions to the niche genre including Beautiful Creatures, Ender's Game, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.  However, 2014 might be different.  Shailene Woodley will be starring in the hyped sci-fi film Divergent next month.  Jeff Bridges will be headlining The Giver later in the year as well.  Before we get to these two big releases, however, we have yet another adaptation hitting theaters this weekend.  Mark Waters is tackling Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy.

There are three races of vampires in the world today.  First, there are the Moroi.  These mortal vampires are peaceful by nature and only drink blood from willing human feeders.  Next up, there are the Dhampir.  These half-human, half-vampire creatures train to become guardians and protect the Moroi.  Lastly, there are the Strigoi.  These are the bloodthirsty, undead vampires we all know and love.  The Moroi and Dhampir have been at war with the Strigoi for ages.  When Moroi princess Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) runs away from St. Vladimir's Academy with her guardian-in-training Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), she takes the risk of becoming yet another casualty of this war and never living to actually take the throne.  Over the course of a year, these two best friends form a bond so strong that they're mentally connected.  Eventually, they're found by legendary Dhampir Dimitri Belikov (Danila Kozlovsky) and taken back to the Academy.

Returning to St. Vladimir for the first time in more than a year, neither Rose nor Lissa are terribly excited to arrive back on the high school social scene.  The feeling is mutual from the student body, especially new queen bee Mia Rinaldi (Sami Gayle).  The same can be said for the school's headmistress Ellen Kirova (Olga Kurylenko).  The headmistress would prefer to put Rose out of school and let Lissa know that she's on thin ice.  With a plea from Prince Victor Dashkov (Gabriel Byrne) and some compulsory magic from Lissa, the headmistress's preferences don't quite materialize.  As Rose and Lissa get drawn back into the gossip, the treachery, and the never-ending popularity contest that is St. Vladimir's Academy, they soon realize that the Strigoi aren't the only threat to their lives.  Meanwhile, Lissa begins to discover her powers as a Moroi.

Vampire Academy is a YA adaptation that has loads of potential.  There's rich source material, a solid cast, and, of course, vampires.  While I certainly enjoyed the film, it has a fatal flaw that's holding it back from reaching its potential, director Mark Waters.  For his part in the director's chair, Waters crafts a film that moves a bit too quickly.  Even if you're an initiated fan who's read the books, the film's rushed pacing undermines the story Waters is trying to tell.  In an introductory film during which a whole new world is being developed like Vampire Academy, Waters should tell the story without so much haste and immerse his audience in this fantastical world of vampires.  Because Waters does just the opposite, Vampire Academy never becomes the great film it could be.

The pacing isn't the film's only problem.  The cast needs more direction from Waters to work cohesively as a unit.  The raw talent is certainly there.  For her part as Rose, Zoey Deutch is one feisty guardian.  She just has no chemistry with her co-star Lucy Fry, who gives a rather stiff interpretation of Lissa Dragomir.  Gabriel Byrne and Olga Kurylenko give solid performances as Prince Victor Dashkov and Headmistress Ellen Kirova respectively, but their roles are rife with opportunity for them to create more compelling characters.  Lastly, Sarah Hyland gives us a caricature of a lonely nerd rather than the real deal as Rose and Lissa's third wheel Natalie.

Vampire Academy gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with this one.  It could have been much better than this.