Netflix’s Castlevania definitely has some teething problems, but its main villain helps to break the curse of bad video game adaptations.
We all know video game adaptations are terrible. We’ve all had a beloved game from our youth destroyed once it made its transition to the big screen (I’m looking at you, Hitman). So when Netflix’s animated horror-adventure Castlevania appeared on the scene, you bet there were a horde of fans groaning in agony at the thought of what it might do to their nostalgia. However, I’m hear to say that it might not be that simple with this four-episode original.
Season 1 introduces us to Wallachia, a nation overrun by vampires, monsters and equally monstrous clergymen. Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage), the last living member of a disgraced monster-hunting family, is brought out of his drunken exile to assist the townspeople of Gresit. A year earlier, Dracula (voiced by Graham McTavish) promised revenge upon the region after they burnt his wife at the stake. And vampires are, if not anything, true to their word. Fast-forward a year and Wallachia is now a bloodbath. With the Church officials placing the blame on a group called the Speakers, Trevor is reluctantly faced with a town tearing itself apart.
Compared to previous video game adaptations, Castlevania is a surprising triumph. The Gothic backdrops of Gresit, Dracula’s infamous castle, and daunting cathedrals are a visual treat. It’s gory without being needlessly so, and there’s plenty of set-up for season 2 that leaves viewers with plenty to hope for.
The real delight of this show, however, is Vlad Dracula Tepes himself. Dracula’s appeal comes from shifting the antagonism towards his enemies in the church. After accusing his scientifically-minded wife of witchcraft, his vengeful apocalyptic hordes aren’t the real threat to the people of Wallachia. Instead, it’s the shortsightedness of the Church that turns events from bad to ugly. For Dracula, sending down demons to attack the town during the evening is just the spark. In season 1, anticipating the Church’s response to events and letting the town turn on each other is the real threat to Trevor. Smart move, Drac.
What’s important about Dracula is how he compliments Trevor’s heroism. After saving a group of Speakers from the Gresit mob, Trevor’s ingenuity comes to light when he rallies the people to fight an incoming attack from Dracula’s minions. Strategic and quick-witted, Trevor Belmont is set up in episode 4 as a genuinely qualified vampire hunter, even if he isn’t the most likable. It’s good writing and, in just a four episode season, gets the job done efficiently.
That being said, Castlevania isn’t without its teething problems. For one, Dracula is absent for three episodes, which feels like a waste of talent. It would have been nicer to see more of the Prince of Darkness’s mourning in the year it took him to gather his demonic army. Plus, despite Trevor’s great scene in episode 4, he’s definitely one of the weaker characters. The dry humour is a plus in my books and adds an extra layer to the show, but his care-not attitude is borderline miserable and difficult to get behind at times. This tone extends to the larger town of Gresit, too. Understandably, they don’t have much to be happy about, what with nightly raids leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, but as the final credits started to roll I had to stop myself from siding with Dracula.
With 8 episodes confirmed for season 2, the talent behind Dracula have plenty of room to iron out any mistakes from season 1 and elaborate on the various characters in the series. It can’t be understated how refreshing it is to watch a video game adaptation that doesn’t fall completely flat.
Castlevania is now streaming on Netflix.