Why Richelle Meade's 'Vampire Academy' Novels Will Work Better As A TV Series They Did As A Movie
There's a lot to go through.
The Vampire Academy series consisted of six novels, released between 2007 and 2010, and followed the adventures of Dhampir Rose Hathaway, her best friend Vasilisa 'Lissa' Dragomir, a vampire Princess, and Rose's growing romantic entanglement with her mentor, Dimitri Belikov, as he trains her to one day protect Lissa from the many dangers of their world. A sequel/spin off series, Bloodlines, debuted in 2011, also spanning six novels, and starring Sydney Sage, an Alchemist supporting character from the later Vampire Academy novels.
The first Vampire Academy novel was previously adapted as a film in 2014, but failed to launch a franchise as the filmmakers may have hoped. Here's what went wrong with the film, and why, hopefully, a TV series will serve the story better.
The 'Vampire Academy' Movie
As mentioned above, the Vampire Academy movie was released in 2014, four years after the release of the final novel, Last Sacrifice. The film, starred Zoey Deutch as Rose, Lucy Fry as Lissa, and Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri. It also included early performances from Cameron Monaghan, Dominic Sherwood, and Claire Foy, who would later win acclaim for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasaons of The Crown.
Based on the first book, Vampire Academy, the film follows Rose and Lissa, having been on the run for a year after they were lead to believe that Lissa was in danger, as they are captured and returned to St. Vladimir's Academy, a prestigious school for vampires and Dhampirs. For 'kidnapping' Lissa, Rose is almost expelled, until one of her captors, Dimitri Belikov, agrees to take responsibility for Rose and train her. Rose shares a magical bond with Lissa, the only survivor of an ancient royal family, able to connect with her and see through her eyes, which would make her the perfect person to protect Lissa in the future.
The movie was a complete box office bomb, as well as being slammed by critics. However, it has gained a minor cult following, for the appearance of actors such as Monaghan, and fans of the books who hoped that supporting the film would give the series a better chance at another adaptation in the future. At one point, the film's production company mounted an Indiegogo campaign to prove to investors that there was enough fan interest to go ahead with an adaptation of Vampire Academy's sequel, Frostbite. Unfortunately, the campaign failed to meet it's goal.
So, what went wrong?
At a time when other Young Adult novel adaptations, such as Twilight and The Hunger Games, were winning big at the box office, an adaptation of a popular series such as Vampire Academy probably seemed a sure thing. How did it go so wrong?
Well, there are a few reasons.
When Mark Waters, the Director of Mean Girls, was announced as the Director of Vampire Academy, some fans were concerned that he was the wrong choice, and that his vision would not mesh well with the books. However, they were willing to give him a chance to see their beloved novels on the big screen.
Unfortunately, those who had come to love the Vampire Academy novels as a story of love, friendship, courage, and sacrifice were immediately turned off by the film's marketing campaign. It felt very Mean Girls-esque, heavily focusing on high school drama and vampire jokes rather than what fans truly wanted to see. The love story of Rose and Dimitri, one of the major plot threads of the novels, is hardly touched on at all in the trailer.
The movie fails to go in depth with important plot points.
The Vampire Academy series is lauded among literary critics for having developed one of the most unique takes on Vampire mythology in recent memory. Moroi, like Lissa, are 'living' vampires. They need human blood to sustain them, but do not kill to obtain it, drinking only what they need from willing donors, and while they are weakened by sunlight, it will not cause them fatal harm. Dhampirs, originally Moroi/human hybrids, now more commonly born through Moroi/Dhampir unions, train as Guardians to protect the dwindling numbers of Moroi from the series villains, the Strigoi. Strigoi are created in one of two ways: If a Moroi kills while feeding, or if a Moroi, Dhampir, or human are bitten and forcibly turned by a Strigoi.
The explanations of any of this in the film are horribly rushed. This, coupled with a failure to sew the seeds of mysteries that carry through the novels, or two adequately establish the relationships between the characters, meant the film lacked the rich world built in the books. It also meant the filmmakers would have had to do a lot of catch up work if the sequels had gone ahead.
How will a TV series be better?
The failure of the Vampire Academy movie understandably proved a blow to fans of Richelle Meade's novels. Thankfully, there are a number of ways the upcoming Vampire Academy television series could potentially set right what the movie did wrong.
The biggest enemy of book to movie adaptations is time. Even in the best adaptations, such as the Harry Potter series, moments that fans would have loved to see end up on the cutting room floor. It simply isn't possible to cram a whole novel's worth of content into a two-hour film.
That is the reason TV series adaptations of books are gaining traction with fans, and it might just save Vampire Academy from a second failed adaptation. A series will have much more time to build and explain the world in which the story takes place. The relationships between the major characters will have time to grow over multiple episodes. A series will also allow more time to build depth in supporting characters, such as Mia Rinaldi, who begins the novel series as a minor villain, but ends as a close friend to Rose and Lissa. Perhaps most importly, a series will have plenty of time to slowly sprinkle the hints towards an impending political disaster in the Moroi world, a background story in the novels that becomes a major plot point by the end.
As mentioned earlier, fans were unfortunately proven right when it turned out that Mark Waters wasn't the best director for Vampire Academy. Waters chose to focus on the elements he knew, such as comedy and High School drama, rather than the deeper, darker stories fans of the novels actually wanted to see.
In contrast, the TV series will be helmed by Julie Plec, a woman who has experience with Vampire-themed YA novel adaptations. Plec has served as the showrunner of The Vampire Diaries, also adapted from a popular series of YA novels, and it's spin-offs, The Originals and Legacies.
Plec's involvement doesn't guarantee Vampire Academy's success as a TV series. In fact, many fans of The Vampire Diaries novels dislike the show's later seasons for straying so far from the source material. Fans of Vampire Academy, who have already been burned once by a sub-par adaptation of the book, are understandably concerned that the same thing could happen again.
Still, choosing a showrunner with experience in the genre is at least a step in the right direction. For fans of Richelle Meade's novels, let's hope the Vampire Academy TV series is a winner.