While – sing with me – Moooortaaal Kooombaaat is a guilty pleasure of mine, generally when it comes to video game adaptations, Hollywood has been producing sh*t stained underwear level nonsense since before I got my first erection. Even Assassin’s Creed which stars two Oscar winners – Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard – and a two-time Oscar nominee – effing Magneto – couldn’t save it from being an absolute sh*t storm. “I came to the cinema to escape my annoying wife’s nagging. But screw this, I’m running back to her,” said the uncle sitting beside me as he stormed out of the cinema the moment Michael Fassbender started singing.
Then came Netflix’s Castlevania.
Perhaps I shouldn’t get too excited. After all, one, this isn’t a live-action adaptation; two, this isn’t a feature film. Having said that, Castlevania is:
Bloody and beautiful.
Castlevania is produced by Adi Shankar. And if you don’t know who Adi Shankar is, he’s the guy that looks like he failed his audition to be the towel boy for the legendary rock band, KISS. But he constantly produces good stuff – R-rated Power Rangers bootleg and Punisher: Dirty Laundry – so it’s all good. Shankar is a great producer. He’s a definite geek at heart and he clearly understands the source materials of whatever he’s adapting.
Take the R-rated Power Rangers for instance. While it’s absolutely nothing like the Power Rangers we grew up with, being R-rated and all, at its core, it still FEELS like Power Rangers. And while I have not played Castlevania (and probably never will #Tetrisbattle4lyfe), I’ve heard nothing but praises from fans of the video game.
Together with director *INSERT NAME* and writer *INSERT NAME*, Shankar has once again produced R-rated goodness. I’m not someone who thinks that the R-rating makes everything better. It doesn’t. The rating should serve the story. The story shouldn’t serve the rating. And Castlevania definitely uses its R-rating to wondrous effect. There is a scene at the start where a woman gets burned alive. It is brutal and difficult to watch. Just like the greatest piece of art ever created, Game of Thrones, this animated series isn’t for everyone.
The visuals are unlike any animated series before this. It’s apparent that Shankar and gang put a lot of care and love into crafting something stellar. The action sequences are violent, riding the fine line between realism and the kind of fantastical bat sh*t craziness you can only see in 2D animated series.
But Castlevania isn’t just action and violence. What’s also awesome is:
The script is tight as fish pussy.
Castlevania doesn’t waste any time. We’re immediately introduced to Dracula and thrown into this world of vampires, magic and science? By the end of the first episode – which is only 24 minutes, mind you – we already know what the story is about. It could have felt rushed. Heck, it should have felt rushed. But it didn’t. It works. And that’s largely due to the well-written characters. Dracula sends his army to destroy villages. Even the women and children are not spared. Yet I can sympathise with him. He should be stopped. He should be killed. But it isn’t as straightforward as that. Crafting a villain isn’t easy. Just ask Kevin Feige. Here we’re given a layered villain. The best part is, he’s hardly seen in the series (so far). But his presence is always felt.
But what about the heroes?
Pretty damn great too!
Trevor (Richard Armitage) is the last living descendent of a disgraced family. He’s kinda like a hybrid of Han Solo, Jon Snow and Captain Jack Sparrow. He’s never sober, a complete douchebag, emits an “I hate people” vibe, but yet there’s something charming about him. Trevor is also an absolute badass at swordplay. Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) is a magician and perhaps the only character in this series that is truly a GOOD person. And the final member of our ragtag crew of monster hunters is the vampire Alucard (James Callis), who is the supposed prophesied saviour. He’s cool, calculated and talented with a sword in his hand as well. Oh, and he’s the son of Dracula. Doesn’t that make things interesting?
What really caught me off guard is how well written the dialogues are. Writer Warren Ellis, best known for his work on comic books like The Authority and Planetary has written some incredibly snappy, well thought out lines. Even the comedic lines land every time, with the standout being a drunk man talking about fornicating a goat.
Reason VS Religion
Castlevania also serves as a commentary on religious extremism and manipulation, which given our current socio-political landscape, is very relevant. Dracula is the main villain, but there are other villains at play here, namely the church. The show constantly brings up the question: how far is too far when it comes to religious beliefs? Believing in a higher power is one thing, disregarding logic altogether is another. This series also brings up how certain religious leaders spew nonsense just to manipulate the people and remain in power.
The premise, characters as well as the underlying themes make Castlevania one heck of a ride, thus far. Heck, I can boldly claim that if the series continues this level of storytelling, it could potentially beat Avatar: The Last Airbender. I do have one complaint, though. Season 1 is only 4 episodes long, with each episode being 24 minutes or so only. Hence, at the end of Season 1, it doesn’t feel like we’ve actually gotten anywhere. Imagine watching The Lord of the Rings, except the first movie ends at Rivendell with Elrond saying, “Nine companions… So be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!” #PotongStim