From page to screen: Vampire Academy

WITH Vampire Academy set to hit screens next year, self-confessed mega fan Juliana Mare asks whether it’s better to read the book or watch the movie first.  

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The VA series has six books plus a spinoff series called ‘Bloodlines’. Photo: Juliana Mare

Adapting novels into films always causes a tremendous amounts of stress for fans. Will the actors correctly resemble the characters? Will the set design and costumes do your imagination justice? Are they going to skip the scenes you love?

Hollywood is no stranger to book-to-film adaptations. This year, a number of extremely successful book franchises like the Hunger Games, City of Bones and Beautiful Creatures shined on the big screen.

But on March 2014, a new young adult film franchise will launch. With six books in the series, this could be Hollywood’s biggest film saga since Harry Potter.

It’s Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (VA). 

The Plot:

The book series follows the life of Rose Hathaway, a completely badass dhampir (half-vamp, half-human) who’s in training to become a guardian and protect the Moroi species (benevolent vampires) from the Strigoi (ruthless vampires).

Unlike so many young-adult supernatural novels, the VA series isn’t another sappy romance between a human and immortal.

Rose Hathaway is a fierce fighter with superhuman combat skills and a sassy, humorous, I-ain’t-got-time-for-your-nonsense attitude. Although she finds herself some pretty epic relationship drama with her hunky Russian trainer Dimitri, this doesn’t overshadow the plot. Instead, the budding romance only adds fuel to the fire and drama that already exists within the secret vampire world.

The first novel begins with Rose and her best friend Vasilisa ‘Lissa’ Dragomir being forcibly returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a prestigious school where dhampirs are trained to become guardians for the Moroi.

With a rare psychic bond between her and Lissa, Rose is determined to finish her training to ensure she become Lissa’s guardian. But all of this is threatened when Lissa is kidnapped and the book becomes a gripping page-turner to see if she can be found and rescued in time.

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The films’ promotional photo. All rights reserved.

Which brings me to a most important question: What should you do first? Read the book or watch the movie?

Read the book first:

Once you let someone create a movie that’s representative of his or her own experience or even the author’s, you take that power away from the reader. It’s like finding out what was in your head the whole time was wrong, which shouldn’t be the case. – Jake Manwaring, 21.

Given the style of the films promotional poster, a seemingly clique-y, preppy school with pupils who wear heels (Rose Hathaway would never, ever wear stilettos!), and the director’s prior claim to fame with Mean Girls, I feel like the school setting of VA is going to be too cliche. A predictable boarding school with vampire pupils, which isn’t at all how St. Vladimir’s is conveyed in the books or in my imagination.

“Viewing a movie removes the individual experience. A reader constructs their opinion based on their own history and views. Viewing a film homogenizes this experience because as a viewer you are dictated to, as in this is how characters are supposed to look and sound.” – Jacob Lewis, 29.

The unique, hunter-style school environment and wit, sass and self-professed tomboy nature of the protagonist are what make the books so fantastic so it’s a huge concern for me that these elements may fall short of my expectations.

“I think sometimes having read the book gives you a greater understanding of the movie. For things like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games I often notice little subtleties in the movie that if I didn’t know the back story from the book I wouldn’t pick up.” – Amy Foyster, 22.

Another potential problem for the movie will be adequately conveying the differences between the three vampire species that exist, the Dhampir, Moroi and Strigoi. These unique vampires aren’t found in any other vamp fiction so will be previously unheard of by moviegoers who haven’t read the books.

“Read the book first if you want to understand all the inside jokes that the scriptwriters inject into the film. However, this means you’ll probably expect the movie adaptation to be faithful to the source material and might be disappointed if it isn’t.” – Grace Yew, 21.

While the differences will have to be explained in the film, it’s the little things like a Strigoi’s craving specifically for Moroi blood or their inability to walk on consecrated ground that might sadly go amiss in the screenplay. This may not be damaging to the plot, but it’s these bonus interesting facts that make the book characters seem much more complex and well thought out than their screen counterparts.

Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky has been cast as Dimitri Belikov. All rights reserved.

Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky has been cast as Dimitri Belikov. All rights reserved.

Watch the movie first:

You shouldn’t read the book because knowing what happens at times ruins the experience. If you read the book, in your mind you’ve made your own picture of the characters and settings in your head. Therefore if you don’t like the direction of the movie, its mostly because it doesn’t fit what you’ve already imagined.” – Carlos Iacuccio, 20.

And herein lies the crux of the fandom struggle. One of the joys of reading is the ability to independently imagine characters, costumes, locations and accents, absolutely anything any everything else within the book universe. Films take this creativity away.

On the other hand, if you agree with the film making and casting decisions, there’s nothing greater than seeing your favourite fictional characters come to life.

The verdict:

Given how cleverly written the VA books are and how unique the author’s brand of vampires are, I would recommend reading the books, or at least just the first, before the film is released.

The VA world is fascinating because while it fits within the wider supernatural young-adult genre, it’s completely unique, filled with wonderfully complex characters and isn’t bogged down by a cliche love story.

Read the books and fall in love with Rose, Lissa and Dimitri on your own terms before Hollywood sinks its teeth (pun intended!) into this franchise.

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This article was written for Meld, thanks for having a read. And Happy New Year!

Am I becoming the designated movie writer for Meld?

Having written yet another movie-focused article for Meld, I feel like I’m becoming the go-to movie/entertainment journalist for the magazine – a title and privilege that I am more than happy to take on. There’s something quite magnificent and more to the point, enjoyable, about being able to write for an area that you’re passionate about and it’s no secret how much of a TV and movie fanatic I can be. Sure, I may not be interviewing the next Steven Spielberg and maybe only a handful of people will read what I devote hours to, but I am immensely proud of the articles I’m writing and I can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction that after spending three years learning the ins and outs of journalism (even the ever-so-tedious theory units), I’m still passionate about working in this field.

Here’s the latest movie-inspired article I wrote for Meld.

5 movies to watch this season!

WHETHER it’s aliens, dinosaurs or wizards that pique your attention, there’s a movie due to hit cinemas in the next two months that will be well worth the price of an admission ticket. Juliana Mare fills you in on the autumn flicks we’re most looking forward to.

The Company You Keep (April 18)

Far from the teenager who saved the world in the Transformers franchise, Shia LeBeouf returns to cinemas as a young, stubborn journalist who goes on the hunt for members of a radical terrorist organisation. From the trailer alone, it’s pretty clear this thriller will keep audiences enthralled with an FBI instigated manhunt, chase sequences aplenty and jaw-dropping secrets revealed at every opportunity. Also starring Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon and Anna Kendrick, The Company You Keep is a must-see for all the mystery film buffs out there.

Oz the Great and Powerful (March 7)

Munchkins, the famous yellow brick road and the emerald city of Oz – things we are all familiar with from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. In 2013, audiences will be cast back into the magical land alongside Oscar Diggs, played by James Franco, the man who later becomes the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. On his way to fulfilling the prophecy of becoming the almighty wizard Oz, Oscar is forced to unravel the mystery of who’s good and evil and save the land from its current problems. The amazing technicolour world of Oz is back, this time in 3D and showing at Melbourne’s IMAX theatre from March 7.

Jurassic Park: The IMAX 3D Experience (April 4)

Remember how epic it was when Sam Neill distracted a T-Rex with a lit flare to stop it chowing down on innocent kids? Well now you can re-live that scene and every other badass dinosaur escape scene from the 1993 action flick Jurassic Park in 3D at IMAX. Sure, a theme park full of carnivorous dinosaurs seemed like a good idea, until the power goes out and everyone on the island is on the run for their lives. It’s so dangerous that some guy even gets chomped on while he’s sitting on the toilet which is just plain unlucky. For a bit of 90’s nostalgia, Jurassic Park is screening at IMAX from April 4.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (March 28)

This film is packing some serious muscle with returning cast member Channing Tatum working alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis. Basically, after being sacked, the G.I. Joe team fight back against home-grown threats from inside the American Government. No doubt the sequel will have just as much, if not more heavy artillery, hand-to-hand combat and macho bravado as its predecessor. If explosions, car chases and fight sequences suspended mid-air are your thing, then Retaliation will definitely not disappoint.

The Host (March 28)

Irrespective of whether or not you love or despise The Twilight Saga, ignore the fact that the book which inspired this movie was written by Stephenie Meyer because it’s hard to believe the same woman wrote both stories. The Host is an adult sci-fi novel about an alien sharing her human host’s body with the original soul who didn’t quite fade away after death. Reuniting with her old family becomes a struggle and sure enough, passion, drama, violence and a love triangle ensue. The movie, starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons and Jake Abel is directed by Andrew Niccol and will no doubt have sell-out opening sessions.

Star Trek: into Darkness (May 16)

While this last movie isn’t due for release until May 16, anticipation and eagerness has pushed it onto this list. Star Trek: Into Darkness is the sequel to the 2009 remake of the franchise, starring Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto and the newest cast member – BBC’s Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch. From the socially awkward, genius detective from Sherlock to Hollywood’s latest villain, Cumberbatch is causing a stir online with fans ogling over the latest theatrical trailer. Spaceships, aliens, super cool advanced weaponry and now a British villain whose eyes may just be bluer than Pine’s – what more could you possibly want from a movie?

Published work for Meld September – October

Spruce up your iTunes this spring

The music scene is heating up this Spring with a bunch of new records coming out (Fifty Shades of Grey, the album anyone?) and some pretty big name artists heading down under (Coldplay, Good Charlotte & more).

Read more on the Meld site

How to host an AFL Grand Final Party

AFL began all the way back in 1898 and since then Aussies have developed certain traditions and customs that Grand Final day just wouldn’t be the same without. Irrespective of whether you’re a local or not, there’s no escaping the build-up of excitement and betting before the match, the actual coverage (or fiercely competitive atmosphere if you’re lucky enough to score tickets to the MCG) and the post-game celebrations.

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Musical match-ups

Ever thought Psy reminded you of LMFAO? Or felt Lady Gaga was the Western Ayumi Hamasaki? Juliana Mare gives you some ‘international’ alternatives to your ‘mainstream’ artists – proving music across the globe has more in common than we think.

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ASEAN Games Australia 2012: Tennis

Singaporean Lam York Wuan and Malaysian Elaine Koay were more than deserving winners at the ASEAN Games Australia 2012 tennis tournament.

Lam York Wuan, from Singapore, knows what it’s like to be a champion at the ASEAN Games Australia (AGA) tennis tournament. The Monash University marketing student, who plays tennis casually, is one-half of the duo that claimed victory in the AGA 2011 tennis men’s doubles final.

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