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Highly stylized, but an empty shell of a great novel
Feb 2, 2008
by Chili Queen
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
User Rating: OK
Pros:Pretty sets and location footage
The Bottom Line: Bad special effects, hollow characters, and pointless violence marred what could have been a delicious update on a classic.
As an adolescent, I loved Annette Curtis Klause's Blood and Chocolate, the gripping tale of a modern-day werewolf pack. In the film adaptation by Katja Von Garnier (screenplay by Christopher B. Landon and Ehren Kruger), Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) and her pack live in Bucharest, Romania after fleeing a massacre in the United States. The solitary Vivian jogs, works in a chocolate shop, and avoids the advances of her cousin Rafe and his slimy friends. At night, she sips absinthe in trendy basement clubs. One night she runs into graphic novelist Aiden (Hugh Dancy), who is working on a piece about the loup-garou (werewolves), and Aiden seems to speak her language, viewing werewolves as noble.
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Vivian tries to shake Aiden's interest in her, as she is destined to become leader Gabriel's (Olivier Martinez) wife and future leader. However, the two eventually become involved, with tragic consequences for all involved. The so-called romance felt forced and unrealistic.
The film is very dark and violent, with several scenes of pack hunting, vigilante justice, and graphic murders. It seemed to be all style and no substance; sure, the location footage of Bucharest looked beautiful, but served no purpose to further the story. There was no integration with local culture, and the trendy clubs could have been in any major European city.
What little plot there was focused on vengeance, with shamefully little devoted to the werewolf lore that was the center of the original novel. In the film, there are no special effects when the humans (rarely) change into werewolves; instead, we're shown a brief blur that dissolves into real wolves. Disappointing to say the least; given, it's not a human in a bad werewolf suit, but none of the mystery or romance from the original novel is there. The chase scenes were heavy handed and overused, as were the numerous club scenes. The violence was gratuitous and largely without merit, but not scary enough to make this a horror film.
Other than the names of several characters, little has been preserved from the original novel, and that's a shame. Klause penned beautiful descriptions of the change from human to werewolf, and of Vivian's delight in her dual sensual natures. In the original novel, Vivian is wrapped up in school and the pack hierarchy, and in many ways is a normal teenager interested in art and music. In the film version, Vivian feels empty; we never know what she enjoys, we never see her at school or with friends. Instead of the well-outlined pack hierarchy in the novel, Olivier Martinez's Gabriel is focused on protecting the pack through violence; there is none of the code of honor featured in the novel, and the werewolves' code is much more animalistic here. In the novel, Klause makes it possible to sympathize with the pack members who have all suffered personal loss and tragedy because of what they are; here, we never meet (or care about) the faceless pack members that exist only to kill humans.
The DVD offers several deleted scenes, a commentary from Olivier Martinez, and widescreen and fullscreen versions.
Final verdict: next time, stick closer to the source material. Some changes may have given the story a fresh new face, but the screenwriters basically rewrote the entire Blood and Chocolate story without any of the romance or wonder.
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