Movies or TV series based on video games have a reputation of being really, really bad. Looking at examples like the Super Mario Bros. movie, The Angry Birds Movie and the Street Fighter movie only seems to prove that video games just don’t work in this form of media. Despite this, the companies that make these movies don’t seem to be disheartened by the negative stigma surrounding video game movies as the recent Assassins Creed movie proves. Is it impossible for video games to make the jump to the big screen while still being entertaining? Another very recent series seems to think not: Castlevania, the animated series.
The Netflix series follows the adventures of Trevor Belmont, the main monster-slaying character from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. In the games, it was quite simple. You enter Dracula’s castle, fight through his demonic army and slay the evil vampire lord. The animated series however, tries to add some characterisation to Belmont’s world. Dracula gets almost the entirety of the first episode to flesh out his character. He isn’t evil simply for the fact he’s evil, in fact, he has good reason to want to eradicate humanity. In the first episode, we see him meet a young doctor called Lisa who seeks the knowledge Dracula holds in his castle so she can use it to help the ill. We aren’t shown much of their interactions after that, but she eventually becomes his wife only to be burned at the stake by the church for the crime of being a ‘witch’. The ancient vampire is of course, enraged by this and gives them one year to prepare while he builds up an army from the depths of hell.
As you might of guessed, the animated series isn’t nearly as black and white as the NES games it is based on. Throughout the four episodes(yes, just four) that make up the first season, the villainy of the church is a prevalent theme. Trevor Belmont, one of the last of the Belmont family remaining, is also one of the few people capable of stopping Dracula, yet the church excommunicated and exiled his entire family simply for coming into contact with the supernatural they worked to stop. So Dracula’s army is slowly making their way across the country razing all in their path with barely any resistance, and the one person who can stop them isn’t exactly happy to help.
Speaking of Trevor Belmont, he’s a brilliant, well-written protagonist. We first meet him in a pub where he is swiftly drawn into a brawl over his family name. He’s rude, snarky, seemingly drunk all the time and constantly fires off a barrage of sarcastic quips. Yet he’s also surprisingly tolerant, loyal to certain people and f***ing badass. One of the only things I dislike about him is he’s a little too R-rated in my opinion. Yes, I know this series wasn’t exactly supposed to be family friendly and for the most part I’m fine with that; but it seems like almost half of everything Trevor says is ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’. Thankfully, this is much more controlled by the season’s second half. Gore is also very present in this series, and to an extreme level. There’s eyes getting whipped out, impaling and even a baby being eaten at one point. I wasn’t too bothered by it, but if you’re not a fan of gore I recommend you stay far away. Most of the first two episodes is made up of dialogue setting up the world and characters but the third episode is where things really kick off.
Visually, the show is stunning with detailed animation and great character designs. It reaches its peak with the final scene in the season, where **SPOILER** Trevor and Alucard(another playable character from the game) fight to a stalemate. Each of the characters fight in their own specific way which was a joy to watch. While Alucard was more controlled, fighting in a stance and barely changing his movements, Trevor was unpredictable, constantly changing his movement and dancing from foot to foot to try and throw Alucard off guard. At one point, Trevor even employs the cheap tactic of a kick to the groin to try and get an advantage and the resulting dialogue was hilarious. **SPOILER** After watching it, I was left with my mouth open, aching for more. One of the other playable game characters, the powerful witch Sypha Belnades, is introduced in the episode prior after a brief, yet awesome fight with a cyclops. The only playable character not to appear at all in the season was the pirate, Grant DaNasty. Hopefully he’ll show up in the next season which has already been confirmed.
Overall, I loved Castlevania. While it does make some changes, for the most part it stays loyal to the game. Dialogue is well-written and full of comedy gold, and the new spin on Dracula and the other characters feels necessary considering modern expectations. However, it has its flaws. First of all, it really could of benefited from just a couple more episodes. Because of the small amount of run time for the season, the first two episodes and parts of the third episode are an exposition fest with around 90% of the episodes made up of characters talking. The last episode-while leaving me wanting more-also left me with a sense of dissatisfaction. It ends almost abruptly, right in the middle of one of Dracula’s assaults leaving more questions than answers. Finally, this may just be my personal opinion but I didn’t think the soundtrack was that great. None of the pieces were particularly memorable or struck me as something special, hell, in quite a few of the scenes, it’s completely silent apart from the dialogue. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for the show’s second season, which is confirmed to have double the amount of episodes. Fans of Castlevania and those who are new to the series alike will find something to like here, provided you don’t mind a bit of gore.
Watch the series on Netflix here: http://www.netflix.com/