Netflix ‘Castlevania:’ Perhaps the Best Cinematic Video Game Adaptation

I’ll say it again, now is a great time to be a geek thanks to all the great cinematic comic book adaptations coming out like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Doctor Strange and Wonder Woman; the return of classic video games and a combination of both in Netflix’s Castlevania TV series. Comic books are now enjoying great adaptations on both the big and small screens, but video games haven’t been so lucky.

The new Castlevania TV series from Netflix went out to challenge the game to cinema slump that has plagued the industry. I can name only two western animated series in the past that were somewhat true to their games, and that’s Mega Man and Legend of Zelda. The most successful videogame to film franchise is Resident Evil starring Mila Jovovich, but the series, unfortunately, ended on a low note. Financially, the series was okay but storywise, the series was terrible. Just saw Doom on cable and that didn’t have much luck either. But Castlevania, in animated form, is just amazing and perhaps a live-action adaptation given the same script, visuals and choreography would have been great as well. I’d like to congratulate writer Warren Ellis (Iron Man: Extremis, Astonishing X-Men), producer Adi Shankar (Dredd 2012, Power Rangers Fan Film) and company for re-capturing many gamers’ childhoods and reinvigorating their adulthood.

As mentioned before, Castlevania is my favorite action-adventure video game franchise. Well, until the 16-bit era. The current crop of Castlevania games isn’t my cup of tea especially after they screwed up the character design. Devil May Cry I and II would have been great additions. Anyway, I still play Castlevania I to IV whenever I get the chance and would snap up the upcoming SNES Classic Edition if I can. Nintendo, call Tim Cook for supply chain tips if you have to. Unfortunately, I haven’t played through Castlevania III from which the Netflix TV series is based on, as I don’t have much time and is too difficult. The old reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

Anyway, the series’ story and characterizations were fascinating. Right off the bat, (no puns intended but might as well have), Dracula is given some character and even a love interest, and thus we’re given his motivation for the entire series. That love interest also explains the origin of his son Alucard who is featured in the games Castlevania III and the acclaimed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. His love interest humanizes the Lord of the Vampires so imagine what happens upon losing that. It’s like Dracula: Untold and Bram Stoker’s Dracula all over again. Yes, one thing that fascinates me about Castlevania is the Lord of Vampires. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is actually the first paperback I read for an English book report still inspired by the Hammer Horror films I vaguely remember.

The series also gives us a fascinating backstory about the Belmont family. That they’re a known family that dealt with the supernatural but later excommunicated by the church and forced into exile resulting in the vagabond character Trevor Belmont featured in the series. Trevor is featured as a drunken wanderer, seemingly wandering without purpose until he finds it after wandering into a city under siege by Dracula’s forces. Trevor Belmont then rescues magician character Sypha Belnades in a quest to rescue a group of Speakers, the equivalent of a modern humanitarian charity group from both the church and Dracula’s final siege. And lastly, they meet Dracula’s vampire son, Alucard in a quest to awaken the town’s supposed legendary savior.

The visuals are simply amazing. The series opted for anime style to better convey all the action and violence that the script requires. The animators tried to adapt the NES game’s colors in their character designs for both Sypha and Simon. Dracula looks close to his design in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and we geeks and gamers appreciate that very much. Loose adaptations sink ships you know. Simon’s design was great, and Sypha was just terribly attractive. Alucard looks wonderful as well. But what about the knife wielding Grant Danasty? He’s not in the current season but maybe in the second which has recently been greenlit given how amazing this first season is.

If one has to nitpick, it’s how the Catholic Church was depicted and demonized as the real enemy within the first season. The series may not be historically accurate as to the Vlad Tepes character himself, but it delves much on the bloody history of the Catholic Church during medieval times. God bless their poor ignorant souls for their treatment of learned women and non-conformists in the past that actually drives this whole story. About the whole story, the first season is basically a setup but a great one before the actual castle action begins.

This is not a cartoon for young children ladies and gentlemen. It’s for us who don’t mind seeing a lot of blood, guts, severed limbs and entrails. There’s a lot of inappropriate language as well. It’s an R-rated show for language and violence. Someone tells you you’re too old for cartoons; they’re sorely mistaken.

Netflix Castlevania is perhaps the best videogame to screen adaptation I’ve seen by far and is a must-see if you love the franchise and video games in general.