As I haven’t read any of the six Vampire Academy novels, I have no preexisting investment or disinvestment in the upcoming film. Sorry book fans, I’m here for the cast and crew, and for my precious, delicate, don’t-dash-it hope that what’s in these trailers is what we get on the big screen. (Bated breath, bated breath).
I’ve gathered the two full length trailers, the teaser, and the intro to the movie as hosted by its charming stars, Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry, so we can talk about just what’s got my breath bated.
But first, the elevator pitch: teenage besties Rose and Lissa attend the exclusive St. Vladmir’s, a school for teenage vampires. They battle mean girls, teenage drama, and deal with the violent internecine conflict between two very different factions of vampires. Rose, our heroine, is a dhampir (half-vampire, duh) and training to be Lissa’s lifelong guardian. Lissa, naturally, is a vampire princess.
It’s a deceptively simple premise, and a neat fusion of two typical adolescent girl fantasies. Forget the internal mythology, which admittedly, seems to have been pretty slickly handled and without navel-gazing, and instead focus on how the film has been constructed, and is being sold to us in these trailers. This is, like Frozen, a story about sisters who have little in common, but a lot of love for each other. And unfortunately, like Frozen, this is a film of overwhelming whiteness–a whiteness that’s particularly bizarre in the context of an international school. Will the movie be as white as these trailers are? It’s a teen film, so there’s more emphasis on bullies, cliques, budding sexuality, and authority issues, but it’s being sold as Mean Girls without the mean.
In Lissa we get a lissome, dutiful princess who’s got the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a tough job, ruling vampire society, but surely Lissa is up to it! And in Rose, we get the smart-mouthed, small-statured junior ass-kicker, who, above all else, is devoted to her best friend Lissa.
Sounds good so far, but on to the trailers.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch_p6Yg-vcs&w=560&h=315]
The teaser intercuts ominous exposition from–is that Gabriel Byrne–some obligatory father figure, with convincingly done action sequences, and school scenes straight out of the central teen movie factory. The high point here is Zoey Deutch, whose Rose has the snappy confidence of Veronica Mars, and the magical physicality of Selene.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH5UmVStHXE&w=560&h=315]
This trailer opens strong with You (Ha Ha Ha) by Charli XCX, and leans heavily on the teen movie angle. Rose, Lissa and their friend (a third girl bestie!?) stalk into the school dance, geek girls made good. It makes a sudden pivot into more serious territory, with Lissa making a speech: “Blood is family, blood is pain, and blood is death.” Lissa may fail to mention that blood is apparently also sex–it’s a formal occasion, I feel you, Lissa–and the trailer more than makes up for it. Along with two heterosexual romances, there’s the lesbian sub and surtext that any self-respecting girl’s vampire story should be replete with.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1ERrnYunBg&w=560&h=315]
With this longer trailer we learn more about Rose–she’s a sassy jerk but a good friend–and Lissa–she’s a bit sensitive and doesn’t have her high school game on lock–and the dynamics of St. Vladmir’s. The students are definitely teenagers: young, insecure, short-tempered, and sometimes mean. While the dialogue is fun and quick, it’s not out of step with real teenage speech patterns or maturity levels. I like it. St. Vlad’s seems fun, when it’s not convincingly miserable. (God, high school.)
The best line: “Everyone saw that I tried to take the high road. Sort of.”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN0DsZ-Sn3E&w=560&h=315]
This trailer introduces us to the stars. They’re charming enough, but what I like here is how they pitch the movie itself: “It’s a date!” “Or, bring the girls!” Drag your significant other, or go with all your friends–either way they’re promising a good time.
It’s too soon to tell if Vampire Academy is a good film. That it was directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls), and written by Daniel Waters (Heathers), is heartening. But what’s infinitely more interesting to me at this point, is the marketing. According to Wikipedia, Vampire Academy is a fairly generic paranormal romance. (Snore.) But rather than emphasize its Underworld-meets-Twilight qualities, the marketers are focusing on the relationship between the two teen girl protagonists, and their issues with the greatest boogie man of them all–high school.
I’m very happy with what the marketing says about Hollywood opening to the importance of girls and female friendship in securing audience. But I’m disappointed to see they haven’t learned the lesson that Fast and Furious, Sleepy Hollow and other properties have. Which is, approximately, that black girl vampires need best friends too.
I find it telling too, that the trailers have featured music by women, and fairly confrontational women at that. Charli XCX, MIA, and Gin Wigmore are girl power absent anything soft. Their songs and videos are rich with images of sexuality, violence, humour, and unconventionally empowered women.
And this is what the marketing team has convinced me Vampire Academy is about. (Bated breath, bated breath.)