Castlevania - Adi Shankar
After the past year of major video game properties being panned in film, morale seems to be lower than ever despite some fair reviews of Warcraft. Assassin’s Creed would like to be forgotten, and after its blu ray release, people still ask why there was an Angry Birds Movie. A few months ago, rumors began circulating that Netflix had picked up the rights to make an animated Castlevania, with the only stipulation being that it would be a “Hard R.” Maybe a bit of a tough sell to executives at Netflix, but with Deadpool catering to more mature audiences with great success, they gave the creative team a test: make a four-part part animated series, each episode 20-25 minutes.
From the get go, that “Hard R” mentality greets viewers with a forest of severed heads on pikes surrounding the familiar gothic castle of Dracula from the games. An unlikely visitor, Lisa Tepes, finds herself at the doorstep as a roaming doctor. Invited in and introduced to Dracula advanced lab, the two develop a relationship for which Lisa’s church condemns her a witch. Her burning provokes Dracula to take vengeance against the church and surrounding town. Enter Trevor Belmont, a vampire hunter and the sole remaining descendant of his house, who wanders into the town after a night of drinking.
It's cliche to call any Netflix show “bingable” at this point, but this seems like one of those times when watching the entire show in one sitting is a must. The total runtime is about 100 minutes, a pretty average length for an animated film. That point is even conveyed by how the title sequence isn’t in subsequent episodes, or how most of the first scene of an episode starts exactly where the last ended without any repetition or bridging dialogue. It's commendable that the series is both respectful of its audience and economic with its time, but I can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t just a feature. The show is a few minor edits away from that, and it's not uncommon for a pilot to be a spectacle.
I wish I could comment about how closely the show represents the games, but I haven’t played any of them. If anything, the show makes me want to dive in. The absolutely brutal action and Gothic sets are pretty fun to watch and makes someone like me wonder about the games. A scene that comes to mind is Trevor coming to the aid of an old man in the middle of a robbery. Coming off of his drunken tirade, he's not as sharp as he should be with his whip, and an in an attempt to disarm one assailant and retaliate against the other, he ends up severing a finger and whipping someone's eye out of its socket, both unintentionally. It all comes together in gruesome detail thanks to the exceptional animation, whose best quality is its lighting. A handful of raging fires or use of magic with surprising particle effects cast excellent shadows in the creepy environment.
The only thing below-standard is the story. Despite some intrigue, there's very little addressing of Dracula. There are moments where his horde of gargoyles attacks the townspeople and Trevor, but no direct confrontation. If you’re familiar with Dragon Ball Z, think of Android 16, 17, and 18, and how they played a role in the Cell Saga. If you reduce their arc of 20 or so episodes and make it so that Goku and the team never meet Cell, you have the gist of Castlevania first, inconsequential season.
As it currently stands,Castlevania is lacking so much substance and progression that it's hard for me to recommend. I know people will be left unsatisfied after its short run, a fundamental flaw in an otherwise great showing. I feel guilty giving this a score at the moment. It feels like watching the first 4 episodes in a 12-15 episode season. If you haven’t already had that one sitting with the show, just wait until more arrives. Netflix already renewed it for a second season. Maybe then the show will get a meatier second season.
- Alex B.
"Curtains" is where you can catch movie reviews by the Metal Lifestyle staff.