If you love your video game to movie adaptations filled with R-rated violence, a lot of slights at religion, and witty cuss-filled banter, look no further than the first season of Castlevania on Netflix. Okay, calling it a season might be a stretch, as this four-episode adventure is very short, but guess what?
It does its video game source material a huge dollop of bloody justice.
“Be Better Than Them…”
The story starts off not with Vlad “Dracula” Tepes being a terrifying lord of darkness feasting on children, but actually warming up to the banter of his soon-to-be wife. It gets dark quickly though, as said woman gets burned on a stake for being a “witch”, even though she is merely introducing them to science. Vlad then demands that the villagers of Wallachia leave the settlement, and gives them one whole year to do just that.
Of course, these assholes don’t budge, which further pisses him off, and leads him to summon an army of hell to basically murder everyone and everything there, while also setting the rest of Romania into darkness. I mean, they killed his wife. What did they expect him to do?
Oh and he also made the sky rain blood, just because he can. So it’s up to the sole survivor of the vampire and beast-killing Belmont clan to get his groove back, while also dealing with the church.
What’s cool and striking about this adaptation is the script and dialogue – every line is pure gold, and every scene plays out well, thanks to writer extraordinaire, Warren Ellis, who also brought you comic book classics such as Transmetropolitan and Nextwave: Agents Of HATE.
In his version of Castlevania, religious fanaticism is just as dangerous as any vampire, and many of us are familiar with this notion.
And let’s not forget about the violence. Castlevania does not shy away from showing half of a child’s corpse, or a consecrated whip lashing out an eyeball while the camera lingers on to the aftermath.
For Castlevania nuts like me, I love the fact that they introduced Vlad’s wife, that every platform our heroes step on crumbles, and oh, the backtracking. Clearly the makers of this series loved their Symphony Of The Night.
“Please…This Isn’t A Bar Fight. Have Some Class.”
Since we’re talking about heroes, let’s focus on how badass Trevor Belmont is. For one, he’s voiced incredibly well by Richard “Thorin Oakenshield” Armitage. Two, and the actor brings a level of roughness and believability to a former hero on hard times. His responses, his witty banter, his quotes – all of them are as enthralling as a satisfying cracking sound from a whip.
We still get some good bits from Sypha, her grandfather who leads the Speakers who happen to be the target of the church’s ire, and the long-awaited Castlevania video game girl’s fantasy boy toy: Alucard, aka the son of Dracula.
They all shine in their respective roles, especially the latter with his standout fight scene and lines. However, the show is clearly focused on Trevor and his rise to the occasion. The show is better for it, since it fleshes out how he deals with his predicament, and shows off his monster-hunting knowledge in various occasions.
“God Shits On My Dinner Once Again.”
Despite its great delivery, the premise creates its own issues. One is the lack of time to flesh things out, including the animation for the fights could be a tad more, well, animated. It looks good, but perhaps with a bit more in-betweens and polish, the fights could have been smoother.
Secondly, the four episodes we’ve seen here are fleshed-out prologues leading to a surefire Season 2, which was announced when the first season made its debut. It’s a hell of a beginning, but it’s just that: a beginning.
In any case, this adaptation comes highly recommended just because it looks good and tells a great first half of a story of a vampire hunter saving the world from Dracula.