TV Review: “Castlevania” Season 1 – All Blood, No Guts

Written by Matt Butler August 06, 2017

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Whenever I’m about to do these TV reviews, I’m always considering one thing: time. Do I have time to watch this? And more importantly, will I make time to watch this? I can count on one hand all the shows I’ve binged (How I Met Your Mother, Rick and Morty, Gravity Falls, Stranger Things, Community, Breaking Bad, Nirvana the Band the Show, okay, two hands…). But these are all shows that I love. What about the shows I don’t love? The shows that start strong, but turn sour halfway through the season, past the point of no return? It’s these questions that compel me to make more calculated risks (if you can even call watching a new tv show a risk). This is the reason -the only reason- that I decided to watch Castlevania. Four episodes, 25 minutes each. And yet, I couldn’t help but nod off.

The entire season goes for 1 hour and 40 minutes. That’s about the average length of a movie. For a TV show, that’s pretty short and sweet, right? Well, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, there’s a remarkable difference between how long something is and how long something feels (oh, grow up). Take The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy. On average, each movie from each trilogy lasts 2 and a half hours, but Lord of the Rings feels arguably shorter. Why is that?

“There is a darkness across the land.”

I think it has something to do with content. The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy of over 1000 pages, The Hobbit is a novel of less than 400. One has far more content to expand upon than the other (The Hobbit has to draw from stories outside its own just to maintain its extravagant runtime). Lord of the Rings’ meatier story means more time spent, but less time wasted. Drawing a closer comparison, Avatar: The Last Airbender, unpacks a lore spanning hundreds of years just four episodes in. And yet it’s still a breezy watch. Castlevania however, a show of equal episodic length to Avatar, feels twice as long. Again, why?

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The answer is harsh, but simple: It’s based on a video game. Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Need for Speed, Super Mario Bros. Need I list more? All other problems aside, the simple truth is that watching a movie about your favourite video game is never as fun as playing your favourite video game. The same applies to Castlevania. With all of Trevor Belmont’s (Richard Armitage) flashy demon-slaying moves, he seems like a fun avatar for anyone’s inhibited bloodlust. But as an outside viewer, his character reads as one-dimensional. He’s a cynical drunkard with a disturbing past. Been there, seen that. What else you got?

“Leave my testicles alone.”

(Yes, that’s an actual quote)

The weird thing is that Castlevania starts out really strong. It sets up this haunting atmosphere with these gorgeous gothic backdrops, as well as a potentially compelling story. The cold open of ‘Witchbottle’ introduces us to Vlad Dracula (Graham McTavish) and Lisa Types (Emily Swallow), who have a very Beauty-and-the-Beasty relationship. This heartfelt romance turns out to only be a setup for a revenge story, as the doctor is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Years later we meet Trevor Belmont, who’s connected to all of this for some reason that was probably explained in exposition too boring for me to care. And while we’re on that, there is exposition everywhere. Going back to that point on video games, almost every scene in Castlevania feels like a cutscene that I can’t skip.

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I’d say it’s the leap in time that makes it so excessive. There’s simply too much ground to cover. But wait, you say. What about all that stuff on content? Didn’t I say more content means less time feels wasted. Well that’s the problem, there isn’t much content. Season 1 of Castlevania is like the cliff notes of the video game. You know character A is friends with character B, but you don’t get any good reasons why. We’re told way more than we’re shown. At the very least, Castlevania features some gorgeous backdrops and shows off some wonderfully bloody violence. But there’s just not enough meat to go with it.

My Rating: 5/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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