My thoughts on the 2017 video game adaptation.
Despite there being rumblings of a Castlevania adaptation being in the works for years, it took this incarnation of the popular video game franchise 10 years to make its way to the public. The games were created by Konami, the same developers behind the likes of the Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid series of games. The show was developed by Warren Ellis for 10 years before it was picked up by Netflix, and he wrote the entirety of the first season. He is also responsible for the writing of Dead Space, and the comic for RED. The series is directed by a first time director in Sam Deats; however, he comes on with a significant amount of experience working in various animation and character design departments. The headline producer for the show is the eccentric Adi Shankar, who was a producer on films such as Dredd and The Grey. The cast includes Richard Armitage and Graham Mctavish who were both in the Hobbit trilogy. Acting alongside them is James Callis who is of Eureka and Battlestar Galactica fame, and rounding up with relative newcomer to voice acting, Alejandra Reynoso, who has since lent her voice to Red Dead Redemption 2 and Just Cause 4. This first season is made up of four 20-25 minute long episodes.
The narrative for Season One, while it has a definitive beginning, middle, and end to it, does contain a cliffhanger. Throughout the season, it felt as if this was a prologue to a much larger story that was to come, which it did a year later thankfully. If there was no follow-up season, it would have left a sour taste in the mouth. The basic story follows Trevor Belmont, the reluctant hero of the show—a rough and sarcastic man who was dealt a bad hand in life and outwardly says he does not care for others, only to end up helping them. In his travels, he enters a city that is under siege by Dracula and his army of demons. The reason for this siege is, the clergy of the city took Dracula’s wife and burnt her on a stake as a result of being accused as a witch. Trevor helps a group of nomads that are trying to help the city, and moves to find the legendary sleeping warrior beneath the city.
The characters all have a personality to them. They are distinct, helping each of them stand out. Trevor and Sypha’s dynamic is a particular highlight, and their chemistry manages to get a laugh out, making things feel lighter in tone without completely breaking the overall tone of the show. The show is very heavy, and dark indeed. The actors all performed wonderfully, bringing life into the characters, making us feel for them and truly making us love or hate the characters that they play as is needed from this story. Matt Frewer, who plays the Bishop, does this perfectly as we feel the hatred towards the character that the show wants us to feel.
The visuals of the show are incredible, and at no point does the show hold back from showing things that most other shows would not go near. There is no nudity to speak of, only copious amounts of blood and gore, animated in wonderful detail. The colours are all rich and help the backgrounds and characters be distinct. The animation leans heavily towards anime while also retaining a western edge. The character designs are crisp and, in short, the entire show is pleasing to look at. The atmosphere, I feel, captures the atmosphere from the games, and seeing the characters using the weapons and the powers that they do are incredibly nostalgic. Beyond that, when it comes to the time when a fight is on screen, the quality of the animation spikes, making the sequence incredible to watch.
The soundtrack by Trevor Morris, who also composed the soundtrack to Immortals and The Tudors, makes a soundtrack that serves the purpose of elevating what we are seeing on screen. The most memorable part of the soundtrack is the piece that is used in the opening to every episode. This is by no means a negative, as the job of the soundtrack is to blend into the piece of media and elevate the experience, and the distinctly gothic soundtrack perfectly does this job.
Having played the early Castlevania games in my youth on the original Playstation, I found this series to be quite nostalgic to watch, and watching Travor use his whip for the first time in the show was a fantastic feeling. Having seen the show, it is not one that I can recommend to everyone despite all the positives I have for it. There is a LOT of blood and gore, and so if you are on the queasy disposition, this may not be for you. However, if you are not averse to heavy gore, strong language, and mutilation on screen, definitely give it a watch. As the first season is four episodes long, it is arguably shorter than any of the four final episodes of Game of Thrones. You can watch Castlevania on Netflix.