In our extremely saturated media landscape, it feels imperative to compare different versions of the same stories being told on screen. After all, what is The Batman, for example, without all the knowledge of the Batmen that came before it? Analyzing Peacock’s Vampire Academy and the 2014 movie adaptation directed by Mark Waters reveals how a film made in response to the Twilight craze of the early 2010s has been transformed into a thoughtful and fun series.
On the most surface level, the difference between Vampire Academy (2014) and Vampire Academy (2022) can be clearly seen in how each version handles its inciting incident: the car accident. If you have read my Vampire Academy review, then you’ll know I started it off by poking fun at the opening of Mark Waters’ 2014 Vampire Academy film. With fumbled exchanges between its teenage characters (Lissa’s brother Andre uses “sick” in a sentence, but then clarifies that he means “the traditional ‘vomit’ definition of the word”) and “Bad Girls” by M.I.A. (you know, the song that goes “Live fast / Die young / Bad girls do it well”) playing in the background, it’s almost impossible to take the car accident seriously. In comparison, the Vampire Academy series created by Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre smartly builds up to the accident, allowing the audience to know Lissa, Rose, and Andre before killing Lissa’s entire family in one fell swoop. The use of slow motion allows the accident to feel like it lasts forever, emphasizing how this one, quick moment has irrevocably changed both Lissa and Rose’s lives. The slow motion visuals of the spilling champagne and the burning car add a sense of urgency and dread to an accident that was all but glossed over in the film.
Whereas the film felt the need to explain every single detail of this vampiric world (which, admittedly, is quite complicated and difficult to explain simply) through a consistent voice over from Zoey Deutch’s version of Rose, Peacock’s Vampire Academy trusts its audience to keep up. While it may seem unfair to compare a 10-episode TV season to a 2-hour film, the series covers the same information given in the first hour of the film within its first two episodes, and never feels the need to have Sisi Stringer’s Rose jump in for a little V.O. work. Instead, the lore of the world is revealed through the characters’ interactions; Lissa and Rose are our guides to royal Moroi and Dhampir societies, Mia and Sonya act as gateways to the non-royal Moroi world, and the chilling effect of the accident reveals just how unstable this vampiric house of cards is.
Despite the film and the series having the same central characters, these two versions could not be more different. While Lucy Fry’s Lissa was vapid and was quickly warped into a walking mean-girl stereotype, Daniela Nieves’ Lissa is caring and kind, and much more layered than the film’s shallow portrayal. Additionally, Sisi Stringer’s Rose is endlessly interesting in comparison to Deutch’s Rose. In the film, Rose becomes a “not like the other girls” jock-type, never fully breaking out of her consistent snarky remarks to offer much depth. In the series, Rose is still a firecracker, but her attachment to Lissa becomes a hindrance rather than a punch line, interfering as Rose is forced to deal with her own trauma related to the treatment of the Dhampirs.
Of course, as fans will now know, the series takes place pre-books, which also allows the show to slowly build its potential villains through meticulously-plotted corruption arcs. While Sonya Karp (Claire Foy) in the film was but a ghost haunting Rose and Lissa, the series’ Sonya (Jonetta Kaiser) is soft and gentle, but haunted by a type of magic that no one else understands. In a similar fashion, these two interpretations of Victor Dashkov are like night and day. As Gabriel Byrne’s acted as a cackling, cartoonish villain via the third act plot twist, J. August Richards’ Victor is a man who simply wants to do good within a world that has centuries-old roadblocks built in to stop him. Though it’s unclear whether or not Sonya and Victor will follow the same path as their movie counterparts, the series has already set them up for a much more devastating heel turn should that be their chosen path, crafting the perfect sympathetic villains if they so choose.
The setting also helps to enhance the experience, as the school in the series is set within the heart of the Dominion, which has been moved to Spain for the show. In the film, the compound in the middle of Montana that acted as St. Vladimir’s Academy was isolated and removed from both the larger vampire world and the human one, leaving it this lonely island where the story took place. In the series, the Dominion’s center being St. Vladimir’s opens the door for more politics and royal drama, expanding the world from its very first scene.
If you asked me a year ago what I thought of the Vampire Academy film, I would have told you that I love it, no matter how silly or poorly made it is. Though, now that Peacock’s Vampire Academy has displayed just how much depth and heart this world can have, I don’t think I’ll ever look at the film the same way. While the film felt filled to the brim with missed opportunities (and was merely just a shell of the Mean Girls and Freaky Fridays that Mark Waters had directed previously), this series is everything it should be, unpacking it’s complicated lore perfectly, and allowing these characters to feel real and whole, even in spite of its fantastical setting.
Vampire Academy airs Thursdays on Peacock.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert.
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