Friday, July 28, 2017

Show Review: Castlevania

Castlevania, the four part animated series on Netflix has now been out for three weeks, so I feel that it is now safe to talk a bit about this animated video game adaptation.

I guess I could probably talk about the artistic style and its influences, or the writer of the series Warren Ellis (whom I just found out has written, among other things, the story to the original Dead Space), but I really do not know a whole lot about the production team, but I know that a lot of people online were relieved when it was announced that Warren Ellis was writing this adaptation.

What I can tell you, is that everyone involved with Castlevania, for the most part, nailed it.  They have made a pretty great adaptation of a 28 year old NES game.  The key word though is "adaptation" though as it is not a 100% faithful adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, of which the story was based, but what was delivered was well crafted and from what I could tell, took a number of cues from the Castlevania series as a whole.

First off, let us talk about the art style, since this is an animated feature, it is kind of a key component to whether or not the series is going to be watchable or not.  From what my non-animated-film-background can tell, this seems to be a traditional animated feature (cell drawn over matte painted backgrounds) with a few CG elements thrown in for effect, but those are not too common and they are not eye-gouging horrific to look at.

Secondly, there is a fair amount of gore here, reminiscent of Vampire Hunter D (I believe I made this mental connection because I probably due to the similarity of the material), although less arteries are severed so you do not get the 35 yard arcs of blood, but Castlevania still does not shy away from showing disemboweled villagers or intestines roped between posts of severed heads upon stakes.  While I do appreciate that Netflix agreed to take Castlevania in an M rated direction, it does make me a little sad that 11 year old me would not have been able to see this even though I loved playing Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse.  But maybe because the game came out 28 years ago, the intended audience was not current young gamers but those who grew up with the series in the late '80s early '90s?  So while I do love the direction that this series is taking, I am just a bit saddened that my 11 and 9 year old nieces will not be able to see this for at least another 5-8 years (obviously depending on the decision that their parent's make).

Thinking about the music too, which was composed by Trevor Morris, was very fitting, and while I did miss hearing in-game songs like "Vampire Killer," "Bloody Tears," or "New Determination (Prelude ~ Epitaph ~ Prayer)," for all I know there could have been very subtle motifs that were snuck in that I could not pick out.  And speaking of not hearing, my biggest gripe with the entire series was that I felt that there were some lines of dialogue that were mumbled a bit, both for effect and for how the scene was, but for the audience, I found it difficult to understand.  Upon a watching a second time, I used headphones and while I was able to hear much better, I still ended up rewinding a few times to catch something that someone said.  And speaking of people speaking, I thought that Graham McTavish (Dwalin in The Hobbit) did a great job as Dracula, Richard Armitage (Thorin in The Hobbit) did a phenomenal job as Trevor Belmont, Matt Frewer (Big Russ Thompson in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) as the Bishop was appropriately pious and creepy, and Alejandra Reynoso (nothing I've ever seen) as Sypha was perfect.  Major kudos to casting director Meredith Layne for her part in this amazing cast of actors.

In closing, I was very excited when Castlevania was announced, even more excited when I found out that it was going to be a series on Netflix and after watching the first season twice, I can say that it is a very good animated feature that is worth watching if you have played any of the games in the Castlevania series and are looking for some redemption in the land of video game adaptations.  If you happen to be on the fence about watching this out of fear that it will ruin your childhood, all I can say that my childhood is still in tact after a second viewing.


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