Tuesday, July 25, 2017
From MadCap's Couch - "Castlevania" (Season 1)
And now, four episodes later, I really, really wish I had.
Let me go ahead and get the things I like out of the way. The animation is phenomenal. It follows on from the art style of Symphony of the Night as I said before and it definitely shows. The voice acting is good. Beyond good, actually. Richard Armitage does a great voice for Trevor Belmont in particular, showing in the The Hobbit trilogy that he has the gravely voice that makes for an excellent vampire hunter.
And now...into some gripes.
The music is composed by Trevor Morris of Dragon Age: Inquisition fame and...none of it is memorable or indicative of Castlevania in any way. None of the music from the games is heard! At all! Though that may be because of the lack of truly awesome moments worth of epics like "Vampire Killer" or "Bloody Tears" as I'll get to in due course.
Another reason this is a full Season 1 review instead of the individual pieces? There are only four episodes as I mentioned above and they're all about twenty minutes a piece. It's bad when the Telltale Guardians of the Galaxy game I've reviewed the first two episodes of a few weeks ago have a greater length than four episodes of this. So, without further adieu...with spoilers to follow beyond this point.
Episode 1: "Witchbottle"
A young woman named Lisa is either brave or stupid enough to march into Dracula's castle in order to learn how to drop science. Sometime later, she's burned at the stake by the Catholic Church because we haven't seen enough of the Catholic Church being dicks in fiction.
Seriously, they've proven more than enough in reality that they aren't on the level. Let's make some new villains, screenwriters.
However, Dracula and Lisa were married and Dracula is understandably rather pissed about the fact that they burned his wife at the stake and...rather generously gives them a single year to leave the area or suffer a terrible fate. They don't, so he kills them all.
Or, if you don't want to read all that: The Catholic Church were dicks and Dracula did nothing wrong. Because, honestly, he didn't.
When Satan tells you to move or die, you move!
Episode 2: "Necropolis"
We are finally introduced to Trevor Belmont, a layabout drunk who runs around in clothing that bears his family crest. The Belmonts apparently having been exiled from Wallachia for reasons that don't exactly pan out because it's the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church are dicks.
Are you seeing a recurring theme here?
But this episode really highlights the main problem with the series as a whole - a lot of talking. A frankly outrageous amount of talking. I'm fully aware that exposition has to get out, but the show itself seems to be built up entirely around just getting out exposition.
The writer of Castlevania is Warren Ellis, who some of my readers will know for his comic book writing (particularly the "Extremis" storyline of Iron Man that was developed into Iron Man 3) and video game writing (Dead Space). Was he just in a rush with this? If so, I find it hard to believe since this has been in development hell since around 2008.
C'mon, dude. You can do better than mountains and mountains of exposition. That would be like writing paragraph after paragraph of insane rants on an internet blog about geeky B.S. that nobody cares about! Who the hell would want to read that?!
But besides that first paragraph, the only actual thing that happens is Trevor getting to another town where he is given crap by the Church and given an ultimatum to leave, and meeting with a group called The Speakers after saving the Leader, eventually agreeing to enter the catacombs beneath the city to find their leader's granddaughter.
Episode 3: "Labyrinth"
Trevor enters the catacombs and finds a cyclops in what is literally the first Castlevania-esque moment since the first episode. It's a good fight and there had been a few action scenes before to solidify Trevor as a combat badass before, but this is literally the first one where he takes on a monster rather than another human.
Definitely have been getting a Castlevania: Colonial Marines vibe with all the human vs. human fights...
But yes, it's good even if it is surprisingly short. In slaying the cyclops, Trevor releases the Speakers' leader's granddaughter Sypha Belnades from being a stone statue for all eternity. And then, we descend into more talking about the Speakers and their missing "Lost Soldier" who is apparently the only one who will stop Dracula, before the Church starts to come down on the Speakers because of the lie that they're responsible for the plague of Dracula because witchcraft and not anything to do with Christian hypocrisy.
Once again. Anyone? Theme? Do you feel the anvil hitting your head yet?
Episode 4: "Monument"
And now we finally get to something even vaguely Castlevania related. It's here that the show actually shows that it could be something fantastic...and it's a fight between a bunch of townsfolk and demons after Trevor outs the Church for their part in Dracula's mass slaughter in Wallachia.
...at this point, I'll take what I can get.
And it's a good fight, using bits of Castlevania lore to their advantage such as the use of holy water and Sypha's magic. It's only after the fight that we get more and more into the games themselves as Trevor and Sypha have to navigate a deeper part of the catacombs in order to find the Lost Soldier...who is revealed to be Alucard, the son of Dracula and Lisa. What follows it a fantastically choreographed fight that shows Alucard to be a badass where it took Trevor four episodes...and I'm still not very convinced.
But in the end, yes, the three of them band together once Alucard is convinced of their intentions of killing Dracula. And...the season ends.
All that build up. All that exposition. All that distinctive lack of things Castlevania-y...and then it's over. Luckily, it has been renewed for a Second Season with eight episodes instead of just four, so we'll likely get more. Hopefully, they'll work on what has gone horribly not good for the first season as I've described here.
1. Cut down on the exposition. We don't need so much and we don't need to know everything right away and have it repeated over and over again.
2. More monster fights. We have all of two. And they're in the last episode. I don't know anyone who comes to Castlevania to see the Belmonts fight other humans.
3. MUSIC! I cannot stress what a big part of Castlevania that was completely left out of this and it's a major let-down. They were able to use the designs from Symphony of the Night and follow (for the most part) the story from Dracula's Curse, so why didn't the music make it in? Why? WHY?!
If you have Netflix and you want to get into it, go for it. Just be ready for more talking than there is actual monster hunting in a show that is based on a series of games that is literally all about monster hunting.
Castlevania is now on Netflix from Federator Studios, Powerhouse Animation Studios, and - of course - Netflix.
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