Review: Netflix’s Castlevania

A lot of buzz about this animated program over the weekend, and I promised I’d watch it and review. This is based on the old Nintendo games, an action/horror thriller that was very intense when I was a kid, even on the 8-bit system. Naturally there’s been a lot of Castlevania games over the years, and it’s developed a world. I haven’t played much since the original games, so I only am aware of that.

The series opens with a woman killing a bat, which hit me right in the nostalgias. I thought oh boy, we’re going to really get a good feel for this game. that’s about the last positive thing I’ll say about it as everything turns directly on its head into a garbled, poorly written mess of a show.

The church captures her, yes the church, and then burns her as a witch in a scene that paints the clergy as these maniacal old men who seem to just delight in torture. We spent the first half an episode on this, and the clergy with the long fingernails that keep getting zoomed in on to show how bizarre he is, also conjuring in us images of actual evil witches in him, it left a sour taste for the first half of the episode. Dracula then shows up and says this was his wife, and it’s the church’s fault for setting his wrath upon the world.

Huh.

Dracula is supposed to be bad, a vampire. He is almost shown as a hero/anti-hero against this wicked church-influenced humanity and it doesn’t jive. The people who are going to be saved in this show don’t have redeeming qualities in the first episode to be worth saving. His rage shows up and he goes over the top caricature evil anyway, sending all sorts of evil into the world, killing people, lots of Game-Of-Thrones-Esque shock gore which really does nothing for the plot.

In fact, a whole episode goes by and we don’t meet a protagonist, don’t really get anything out of Simon who I was hoping to meet (I’m guessing he was the one kinda hanging at the bar there while some other gross bar patrons talked?). A first episode as an extended prologue? That’s too much, and there was nothing to connect to if that were the case for 25 minutes of my time. It was a jumble, it’s anti-church, it doesn’t quite make sense, it’s just trying to shock with showing very direct gore, it’s about as dark as it gets (which i expected from Castlevania — but I expected some heroes too to fight the darkness, that balance needs to be struck), that’s enough for me to write off the whole show. There’s no point to it, and nothing to root for.

What happens with these shows is there’ll be a lot of buzz around the first watch, and when it starts to settle in, people will think about it and it won’t get nearly the amount of accolades it does now.

Netflix needs to learn how to make a show without trying to go for over the top shock value in showing how awful everyone is all the time. They seem to be incapable of doing that with House of Cards, This, Sense 8, or any of their shows. Until they break that barrier, they’re going to have a hard time holding viewers. This will be successful for its first run as everyone checks it out for the nostalgias of it, it is a brand that gets people to tune in, but shock value won’t hold forever.

 

11 thoughts on “Review: Netflix’s Castlevania

  1. No Simon, sadly. Only Trevor. And, by not watching on further you missed the lovely 5 minute conversation, full of expletive detail, about a man and his goat.

    No, I’m not exaggerating.

      • SJWs ruin everything, or SJWs are cancer. Either works in this case. Warren Ellis shat on comic books in the same manner. Lacking morality they “call Good Evil and Evil Good.” Now where have I heard that one before?

        They really can’t be trusted with a Civilization, at all. So sad.

      • The worst sin is Ellis’ and the other writers’ Historical Illiteracy. Truly embarrassing display on their part.

        • I’ve watched three episodes on my phone (I was stuck on a train without a decent book or I’d have given up after episode 1). Despite the date and Vlad Tepes being a real person, the setting is more obviously meant to be a fantasy world rather than ours – i.e. the absurd anachronisms are intentional.

          It gets better but the “church” are still the secondary bad guys.

          • So even from a polar opposite perspective, you felt it was weak on the story front as well it sounds like? Wonder who the target audience is.

  2. They did wait a bit too long to introduce the protagonist, and the goat talk was rather entirely “R-rating for the sake of R-rating” but I really liked it overall.

    And yes, it does rail against the corrupt members of the church, and yes they are directly responsible for incurring Dracula’s wrath, but the season does show that to be a failing of those particular men, not the faith (or God) as a whole. (While it is brief, an actual good priest is instrumental in the second to last fight)

    Heck, even the demons call out the corrupt clergy for being corrupt and explicitly not of god.

    As for Dracula himself – I thought they did a good job of making him sympathetic while still clearly a bad guy who needs to be stopped.

    To whit – yes, he is justifiably enraged by the death of his wife, but his reaction to that rage is clearly villainous, punishing the innocent along with the guilty. (For which another character close to him calls him on pretty much immediately)

  3. “Netflix needs to learn how to make a show without trying to go for over the top shock value in showing how awful everyone is all the time.”

    This was the exact problem with Jessica Jones, too.

  4. otomo
    on July 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm said:
    So even from a polar opposite perspective, you felt it was weak on the story front as well it sounds like? Wonder who the target audience is.

    Given the art style etc I assume the target audience is anime fans but it is subpar by that standard. Mind you I’ve watched four episodes now, so I guess I hate it less than I think I do.

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