Netflix Castlevania Review

Video Game adaptations have become something of an enigma, for all their effort and vision, none have lived up to the mark set by their processors. Chances are you can name a dozen or so bad video game movies/series, but struggle to name a great one. Hollywood and the rest have a track record of creating poor imitations of loved franchises when it comes to Video game adaptations, but every now and then we seldom get something like the Castlevania Netflix series. It’s a shining light at the end of the tunnel and proof that you can make a good adaptation of a video game.

Netflix’s Castlevania series is based on the long running and much loved video game by Konami. A horde of demonic monsters has been unleashed by Vlad Dracula Tepes in an act of revenge against the church after they burned his wife alive. The realm of Wallachia is plunged into darkness and only the hero of our story can save the day. Enter Trevor Belmont, last surviving son of the Belmont family (Voiced by Richard Armitage). Trevor is a cocky and brood protagonist who must band together with unlikely allies and put aside his differences for the greater good.

If you haven’t played any of the Castlevania series then allow me to educate you. The original games offered gamers something in the way of a creep and disturbing atmosphere. The plot and the story weren’t what these games were about, but that didn’t matter. Based on that observation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this might not be the best way to break a trend of bad video game adaptions. You’d be wrong on that account.

The series begins by following the story of Dracula, we follow him meeting his wife and get to see a human side to him. It’s a nice opening and after some good exchanges between the married pair, the tone is nicely set. There’s a depth to Dracula and the first episode portrays this very well.

After suffering the loss of his wife by the clergy, who hold her responsible for witchcraft and therefore burn her alive. Dracula makes his presence known to the clergy. In a fit of rage, he offers them a year to turn away from their gods and repent or he will unleash his army upon the world. This first episode sets the scene for the rest of the series, which is four episodes long.

Castlevania is as much about human choices as it is about good vs evil. Despite the gray characteristics of Dracula’s portrayal, the same cannot be said for the clergymen in the series. Where Dracula has reason’s for his actions, the clergymen and a lot of the other characters fall into the good or evil category.

The church in Castlevania is my biggest disappointment with the series. The leader of this sect, known as The Bishop, is the main antagonist of the series. He’s typical and at times one-dimensional often speaking with an annoying lofty verbosity. Despite a glimpse into his plans, The Bishops motivations in Castlevania seem disjointed and remiss from the true story here.

Castlevania is brutal at times and can be funny at others. Underneath the overarching tone of science vs religion Castlevania still, has enough bloodshed and flying limbs to go around. Some of the voice acting work here is particularly good. Dracula himself, voiced by Graham McTavish, deserves a mention as one of the standouts. I also like what his fellow Hobbit co-star did with our protagonist Trevor Belmont. I liked Richard Armitage’s delivery of his lines, as it brought some light and humor into a dark story, in particular, the second episode named ‘Necropolis’. The episode gives Trevor a humorous introduction in the form of a drunken bar brawl, accompanied with plenty of one-liners and F-Bombs.

The animators and artists who worked on the series can be proud of the work they have done here. The art style and animations complement the dark medieval tone of the 15th Century. Only a handful of the huge catalog of monsters and demons from the video game make it into the series, but this won’t be a distraction for fans of the game.

Castlevania isn’t the perfect series by any stretch, but it’s a fantastic example of how to adapt video games into other mediums. After the disappoint Assassins Creed (if I can reopen that wound), we finally have a something that doesn’t collapse after the first act, or sooner in other cases.

My biggest gripe with the series is that there simply isn’t enough content here. The four episodes are all around 25 minutes long. If there is one lesson showrunner Adi Shankar can take from this season, it’s that upping the run time would go a long way to improving the series. I’m a true believer in quality not quantity and that seems to be what Adi Shanker has gone for here. That’s not a problem, but the first series of just four episodes was pretty disappointing by the end. The good news is that Castlevania has been renewed for a second season, which will have eight episodes, much better than the four currently on offer.

Despite the small diversions and stumbles the series has, it never loses sight of its end goal. Watching the four episodes side by side, Castlevania seems more like a long movie, than a series. After the end credits rolled I found myself wanting more and slightly unsatisfied with the ending given. Loose ends are to be tied up and I’m already looking forward to the next season.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.
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